Posted: 10/20/2008


The Wrestler – 44th Chicago International Film Festival


by Elaine Hegwood Bowen

Screening October 17 and 24 at the 44th Annual Chicago International Film Festival.

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Many indie film lovers may wonder just where Mickey Rourke had gone, after having had some previous movie success. But he’s back, stronger than ever, as the lead, Randy “the Ram” Robinson, in The Wrestler.

Rourke plays the role so well, that it’s hard to determine whether the wrestler in the movie is channeling Rourke or Rourke is channeling The Wrestler.

The movie begins with Rourke preparing for a bout; he appears with a long, blond ponytail, hearing aid (a tribute to an old wrestler) and a scarred up body.
The Wrestler is estranged from his daughter, and he finds solace when he goes to the strip club to see Stephanie, played by Marisa Tomei, dance her little heart (and everything else) out.

Rourke uses tricks of the trade to enhance his wrestling abilities, and he visits a tanning salon to keep his bronzed features. In The Wrestler, it’s obvious that the matches are staged, as the two opponents review their separate moves beforehand. One agonizing fight has Rourke and his opponent using a staple gun on each other. And then tragedy strikes, and Rourke must make hard decisions.

According to director Darren Aronofsky, Rourke has been in therapy lately, trying to get it all together. And life certainly imitates art: “I’m just an old, broken down piece of meat,” Rourke comments, making an analogy while working at the neighborhood deli.

While Rourke has a reputation for having lived life on the edge, Aronofsky says it wasn’t a risk to hire Rourke. “He told me of his 12 years of therapy,” Aronofsky said. “I was conscious of what he had done to himself and his career. He wanted to have a comeback, and he’s unbelievably talented.”

And with this great performance, Rourke proves he is a fighter, both on and off screen.

For more info about the 44th Annual Chicago International Film Festival running through October 29, visit

Elaine Hegwood Bowen is a veteran public relations and journalism professional and former journalism professor. She’s publicist for her daughter, Hip-Hop artist Psalm One. A native Chicago South Sider, Elaine was a recent University of Maryland Bio Ethics, Health Disparities & Clinical Trials Fellow and winner of a Black Press Messenger Award.

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