Randy "The Ram" (Rourke) is a wrestler who's two decades past his glory days. But he's a wrestler--that's his love and his life. So he goes where the bouts are and where the signings are, despite his age, his reading glasses and his hearing aid. He also has a job at a grocery store to help make ends meet. He has a daughter (Wood) who he never sees and seeks company with a stripper (Tomei). So is it possible to have more to life? Is it possible to change? Or are we who we are and we have to just learn to live with it?
The poster might tout this as the resurrection of Rourke, but it's certainly just his ability to get the attention. Those of us with taste thought he was fantastic as Marv in Sin City and that's where his comeback began. But whereas in Marv he was the perfect embodiment of a barbarian killing machine and fantastic, Rourke shows that he can do drama like there was no tomorrow. His Randy is the sort of loser that you can't help but root for, more and more as we see his day to day existence. He's now the perfect embodiment of everybody: mostly we're working jobs we hate because we can't make enough money doing the things we love. We don't treat our family as well as we'd like. We're not as good as we should be--and we know this. And the fact that we know it and can't seem to fix it makes the whole thing somehow worse. That's Randy the Ram right there.
Have you gotten the picture that Rourke is ridiculously good yet? You have? Okay, good. Because without him to anchor this thing in honesty, you could easily name off the plot points as they happen--but the reality of the situation prevents that. Tomei and Wood both give some great supporting performances, although I do like Wood as the disappointed daughter. But Tomei, when she comes alive in the role, shines as well. And Aronofsky tones down the hyper-realism of something like Requiem For a Dream and goes for a great deal of single camera, documentary-style realism. We know these are actors, but the situation feels so real on the surface (and so familiar below the surface--see above) that you're sucked in and can't leave.
Is this a film that has to be seen on the big screen? For the most part, no--but I classify it as Don't Miss It because of Rourke. He is utterly fantastic and makes the movie.