Mickey Rourke

Have you ever wondered what’s behind the masks and facades of our most famous celebrities? I have. Come on, you can’t tell me, in the wake of Michael Jackson’s death, that you haven’t for one moment wondered what he was really like in private.

The face, the hair, the body, the clothes, the act – we fans and cynics take it for granted that our celebrities will give us the cartoonish stars we expect to see. We pass disparaging remarks when the surgery’s too obvious, mock the outrageous image changes or simply pick holes in the performances if they fail to meet our expectations.

But we’d be even more outraged if our stars walked on stage without the costumes and the masks, I’m sure.

Mickey Rourke

This curse of the showperson is highlighted brilliantly in The Wrestler. In an outstanding performance, Mickey Rourke plays slightly over the hill wrestler Randy ‘The Ram’ Robinson. A huge star in his heyday, and still celebrated by his devoted fans, Randy faces health problems. Years of drugs and body battering have taken their toll, and when a heart attack forces him to stop wrestling altogether, he’s left lost and bewildered.

Mickey Rourke

This film is not so much about wrestling as about what goes on behind the scenes of the wrestling world, and it’s gritty and harsh in its depiction. This showman may appear strong and bronzed and macho in the ring, but in the wings he goes to great lengths to preserve his wrestler mask – visiting tanning salons, having hair extensions, body building, pill popping and regularly self-harming to give the fans the injuries they’ve paid to see.

Randy’s not a terribly likeable character most of the time, but you can’t help feel for him, because once a wrestler, always a wrestler. Without his image and his fans he’s nothing, his identity is virtually erased.

It’s worth thinking about that next time you start laying into a superstar for putting themselves under needle. Ask yourself, have they done it for vanity’s sake, or have they actually endured the suffering because they want to give their public the stupendous show they expect to see?

Mickey Rourke

Click here for what we’ve said about The Wrestler previously on Movie Talk. The film is currently available on demand on Sky Box Office and FilmFlex.