Are you kidding me? This is how it ends? There is so much to love in these minutes ringside, but there could be nothing more I could have asked for than this ending (to echo you, Bruce Springsteen – see this film if you do not know what I mean). This is a story that will impact everyone who experiences it, but only the truly broken will know how true it is. Only those broken down pieces of meat, only those who are alone, only those who don’t want to be hated even though they deserve to be will know why this ending is so significant. It’s true – this movie ends the way it should – how could a wrestling movie end without one last match? But the credits roll and we sit and wonder, “what happened?” and the broken, the loner, and the hated know it doesn’t matter because no one cares.
But there is more to this story than the end. Laughter is one. I howled out loud at the deli, part one. The way The Wrestler, with his girly nametag, slams around the meats and other processed crap Americans live on while having a good time just made me smile and let slip a hearty laugh. And the part-documentary feel made me laugh too remembering something of my life back there in the rough and tumble world of the American supermarket where I once logged many an hour and none too few a day. We needed to laugh just then and the storytellers gave it to us.
If laughter is one then emptiness is a heartbreaking second. I felt the hollowness of life thumping down on the mat here and there, but when Randy’s standing amidst the winter leaves in his “backyard” I felt it rise up within my own bones. There is something about a clear, cold winter’s day in the eastern USA where I grew up that, when you couple the weather with the palpable pain of life, makes for a memory only we who have lived it can understand. I am not even sure I can put words to it here or if you were sitting here to ask me. No. I cannot. All I can tell you: there is an emptiness to this film that makes it special.
If laughter is one and emptiness is two, then perhaps it’s the combination of those two that make for a third: this is a film every kid who’s like me wants to see. It’s the film we have been waiting for. There is a magical quality to the relationship of a father and his child, and so many of us have tried to figure out the trick. What is it? The Wrestler and his daughter can’t answer this question. But their dynamic sure can reach right inside us and let us know this: one, we are not alone and two, often there are not happy endings. Our journey with our Dad can end as sad as it grew to become somewhere, or is it all the way, along the road. Oh! How we yearn for acceptance and love and time and Oh! how we can be left wanting, even as we say it: “get out!” How can we say it to the one we most want to come in? It’s magic and we haven’t quite figured out the trick.
In closing, I’ll tell you this: these 1 hour and 50 minutes are ripe with the kind of content that can cause a man to think about things he shouldn’t. Don’t take your kids to see it, unless you’re the kind of Dad who hasn’t taken your kids to a movie in a very, very long time and if you don’t they will keep on hating you. There is violence, foul language, and strippers and poles. But the truly broken down don’t obsess about those things. There is so much more at stake here. Sin is a given and all its filth is on display here. That is why I love The Wrestler. Because sin is a curse, sin is the degradation of women, sin is addiction, sin is violent, but sin is also abandonment, sin is looking in the mirror and realizing you are scum, and sin is thinking no one cares and no one ever will care.
Sin is raw and real, but thanks be to God. Forgiveness is realer still. And maybe that’s why we hope that the jump from the top rope wasn’t his last.
The End (or was it?)
This week's question: do you read non-fiction regularly? Do you read it in a different place or way than fiction?
If you're looking for a clear and fascinating article that explains the current global financial crisis affecting all of us, then read this. And if you want to read an intriguing piece on scientific study that affects the breaking of human hearts as well as finance models, then read this. I enjoyed both and benefited from reading them tremendously. Both are easy to read too!
I am an avid sports fan (no less so for living in Hong Kong, far far away from America). Every year, in preparation for the football and baseball seasons (my two favorite sports), I pick a new book on the sport and read it as the new season gets underway. Since baseball just started I have been reading Joe Torre's new book The Yankee Years. I finished it this weekend and I am happy to give this a four star recommendation. Torre teams up with Tom Verducci, senior baseball writer for Sports Illustrated, and together they give us an easy-to-read waltz through 12-plus years of Yankee history.
This week's question: we're a third of the way through 2009. What's your favorite book you have read so far this year? What about your least favorite?
And today I pause to thank you for this great crucifixion on my behalf.