Rachel and I went to see "The Wrestler" Friday night at the Esquire. It was our second try (it was sold out last weekend). I enjoyed it, but agree that it was not up to the best picture nomination quality of Slumdog and Milk.
I should indicate that this post must be considered a spoiler, so you shouldn't read it if you don't want anything spoiled. If you plan to see the movie, go first, and then come back and read the blog.
The movie has three relationships, one the wrestler (Mickey Rourke, of "The Pope of Greenwich Village" fame) develops with a stripper (Marisa Tomei, in a very revealing role), one he tries to develop with his daughter (Evan Rachel Wood), and the one he has with the fans (even though the fans aren't in the movie). I think the relationship with the stripper is really a way of telling the story of the relationship between the wrestler and his fans. There's a scene where the stripper explains the rules between herself and her customers. She is essentially explaining to the wrestler what he already knows to be his relationship with his fans. The stripper is, of course, a professional, and can't have a "real" relationship with the customers. It is her job, as a stripper, to create the illusion of intimacy with the customers. The wrestler is also a professional and it is his job to create an illusion of competition for the fans. The fans go to the matches for various reasons, but for the most part they all know it's an illusion, just like strip club customers. The wrestler wants a real relationship with the stripper because he's losing his relationship with the fans. But what he really wants is a real relationship with his daughter, but he's no good at that. He understands this when he's confronted by a fan while working at his post-wrestling job. He realizes that he can no longer keep up the illusion, and he's failed with his other relationships. He then decides to go out with a bang so to speak.
I heard that the professional wrestling community is pleased with the movie, which (as Rachel pointed out) means it was likely realistic. The thing that struck me is the lengths the wrestlers went to, including incredible physical pain, to "compete" in wrestling matches that are fake and that everyone knows are fake. It would almost seem less physically demanding for them to wrestle for real. I guess this is why ultimate fighting has become so popular.
By the way, the picture is your favorite blogger dressed as professional wrestler Nacho Libre for halloween last year.