By James Rocchi,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Brilliant drama about rough redemption is for adults only.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
The movie thematically looks at the appeal of wrestling and violent entertainment, as well as adult "entertainment" like stripping.
Positive Role Models
Most parents would not want their kids to be like anyone in the movie. A wrestling character, "The Ayatollah," is a racist caricature. A nude female dancer is mocked due to her age. The main character cluelessly theorizes that his daughter is a lesbian. On the plus side, the lead character makes an effort to reach out to his estranged daughter.
Violence & Scariness
Repeated, extensive and graphic "fake" wrestling action violence, which nonetheless involves real pain and blood. Characters use concealed razors to create bloody wounds for show in the ring; a lead character is battered, pummelled, slapped, struck with furniture, beaten with a window, and even assaulted with a staple gun (with staples punched into his flesh) in the ring. The lead character also inflicts abuse on others in the ring, striking an opponent with a table, a crutch wrapped with barbed wire, and more. The consequences of this violence are depicted in extensive detail, in terms of both long-term physical trauma and immediate suffering. Some fighting and scuffling outside of the ring. A character suffers a heart attack and must have a bypass; surgical scars are seen. A character rams his thumb into a meat slicer.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Extensive female full-frontal nudity, with many scenes set at a strip club; the club is presented in a fiercely realistic way, without much glamor or gloss. There's a sex scene between two consenting adults who are under the influence of drugs. Male buttocks are seen as a character injects steroids.
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Extensive strong language, including "godammit," "f--k," "s--t," "p---y," "ass," "t--s," and much more.
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Products & Purchases
Some brands are visible or mentioned on screen, including Nintendo, Call of Duty 4, Polaroid, bands like RATT and Poison, and more. Some real-world brands are briefly glimpsed in a grocery store.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Characters smoke, drink beer and hard liquor, and abuse drugs like cocaine and steroids, as well as painkillers. References to marijuana and amphetamines; prescription drug abuse. There are clear negative health effects from the main character's misuse of alcohol, steroids, and other drugs.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this critically acclaimed indie drama is a strong, brilliant, fierce film -- for adults only. The acting, direction, and writing are of Oscar caliber, but there's extensive nudity, unflinching violence, drinking, drug use/abuse, and swearing. The film is also moody and complex, depicting the physical and moral consequences of the characters' work as "professionals" in the economy of entertainment.
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Where to Watch
Based on 9 parent reviews
Very good drama about an aged wrestler's chance of redemption.
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Extreme violence and graphic content makes this movie a no-gooder for kids
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What's the Story?
In THE WRESTLER, Mickey Rourke plays professional wrestler Randy "The Ram" Robinson, an '80s star who's fallen from grace, reduced to working in a grocery store and taking part in low-rent, low-pay bouts on the weekends. Randy's life is changed when, after a match, he suffers a massive heart attack -- which means the end of his wrestling career. Randy reaches out to his estranged daughter, Stephanie (Evan Rachel Wood), and Cassidy, (Marisa Tomei), a stripper he feels a bond with. But he also feels the pull of the ring as the 20th anniversary of his greatest bout -- with a wrestler known as "The Ayatollah" -- promises both money and glory.
Is It Any Good?
One of the best American films of 2008, The Wrestler is a brilliant, heartfelt, and unsentimental drama anchored by an incredible performance from Rourke as a washed-up athlete. Rourke's Randy relies on past glories, a part-time job at the grocery store, and massive doses of steroids to keep his bills paid and his career going. But his heart attack changes that, and Randy has to try to channel his charm and need for the spotlight into different areas of life, reaching out to Stephanie and Cassidy instead of playing to the crowd.
The Wrestler sounds intense, and it is, but it's also quite funny, thanks to the script by ex-Onion editor Rob Siegel. "I have two words to say to you, dude," a promoter pitches to Randy in anticipation of the approaching anniversary of his bout with theAyatollah: "Re. Match." Rourke is also charming, showing us a man who not only craves attention but also has a spark that makes people want to watch him, whether it's performing in the ring or dishing out cold cuts. Director Darren Aronofsky's previous films -- Pi, Requiem for a Dream, and The Fountain -- were all gorgeously shot and impressively smart. But with The Wrestler, he's working in much more emotional territory than he's explored before -- and clearly marking a new phase of his career with a film that combines the style and feel of modern European dramas with very American cultural concerns. Tough, rough, and impressive, The Wrestler's wounds and bruises hide a mighty heart.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk aboutthe nature of the "fake" violence depicted in the wrestling matches -- is it really "fake" if people are bleeding?
What's the appeal of professional wrestling to begin with? What makes it compelling entertainment?
Is it as popular now as it was in the '80s? Why or why not?
Discuss the similarities between Randy and Cassidy, who both make low pay selling their bodies (he wrestles, she strips). What effect does that have on their self-esteem? Their relationships with others?
- In theaters: December 17, 2008
- On DVD or streaming: April 21, 2009
- Cast: Evan Rachel Wood, Marisa Tomei, Mickey Rourke
- Director: Darren Aronofsky
- Inclusion Information: Bisexual actors
- Studio: Fox Searchlight
- Genre: Drama
- Run time: 105 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: violence, sexuality/nudity, language and some drug use
- Last updated: June 2, 2023
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