I was really, really, really looking forward to seeing The Wrestler, Mickey Rourke’s comeback film about a pro wrestler making a comeback. If you know me at all well then you know that I used to have rather an enticing gap between my top front teeth.
And then I became a mud wrestler. I know what you’re thinking… but I was not an “exotic” mud wrestler. NO! We were serious artists. This was WWF-style grapplin’ that just happened to have an extra fun element of slippery mud, plus the traditional accoutrements: costumes, plots, threats, boasts, double back-flips, secret identities—I was the Incognito Mosquito, dressed like a giant bug—heads beaten with folding chairs, and some serious, adrenaline-pumping pain.
Once in a while there was too much pain. The time, for example, when I fell too hard on my face and knocked out my beautiful misaligned fangs. I still don’t know what made me sadder: the fact that the bemused dentist didn’t even know how to restore gapped teeth on purpose, or the fact that I was asked to hang up my mask and wings. I didn’t even have anyone to be angry with. We parted amicably, the Mud Wrestling Organization and I; it was simply decided that I suffered an incurable inability to respect my own physical limitations, and was therefore an insurance liability. I still root for the MWO—they’re still around, by the way, and have a web site; look ’em up, they may have some shows this spring—but it was rather a stab to the heart.
So ten years later, they say there’s gonna be a Mickey Rourke flick with a pro wrestler making a comeback? Oh boy, I say, painting on some extra thick eyeliner. This is going to be worth walking to the mall! (The only movie theaters in this town are in the no-peds-land of the mall district, reachable only by walking along the highway or, if you’re not blind, prone to panic attacks, or particularly concerned about the future, driving your SUV.) And it was worth it, just to see Rourke’s performance, certes, as well as to reminisce over the joys of spandex, endorphins, and bleeding all over the place like AIDS never happened.
But two things marred my joy. One of them was my own goddamn problem, or at the limit, the problem of the U.S. Air Force. What Rourke’s character, Randy the Ram (better than my moniker, I have to admit) is coming back from is a heart attack, and anything related to heart problems has got to be my number-one neurosis. If I see somebody else clutch at their chest, I immediately get chest pains. Whenever I have a stomachache (which is almost always), part of my brain is constantly pulling on the panic cord labeled “BIZARRE SENSATION IN CHEST AREA! DYING DYING DYING!” I still can barely choke down eggs, even though they’ve figured out that there’s something unsticky about their brand of cholesterol. Thanks for ruining a perfectly good foodstuff for me, Air Force.
The reason I blame this on the U.S. Air Force rather than on my parents, who should have never told me that I had a heart murmur as a baby (I was premature, so it was par for the course, and it fixed itself, so there was no reason I had to know), is because the AF lied about my grandfather, whom they drafted when he was very young, and who went on to remain in their employ until he died of his fifth heart attack, at the age of 52. This did not occur because heart disease runs in my family. It was because of a strange heart defect particular to Grampa. (God, my palms are sweating just typing the word “heart” so many times.) The Air Force doctors knew this; however, if they had told anyone about it they would have had to release him from their service, and he was a very good, uncomplaining, hardworking piece of cannon fodder. So they let everyone in my family walk around thinking our hearts were time bombs. Is it any wonder I didn’t give a damn if you broke a window over my head? They didn’t release this piece of information till well after my gap was gone, the fuckers. (I suppose we should have figured something was amiss when neither my dad nor any of his eight siblings suffered a heart attack for the next thirty years, but neurosis can eat up a lot of brain space.)
They also waited till my chest-fear was lodged far too firmly in place to ever get anything but temporary relief, from heavy applications of flesh-wounding and/or alcohol. So imagine my willies when I had to sit there watching a method actor do chest pains for two hours. I have never been so freaked out that I had to leave a good movie prior to this, but at some point during the spoiler alert, sort of final scene of The Wrestler, closing my eyes didn’t work anymore, and I had to stand outside the door and wait till it sounded like things had either turned out all right for the Ram Man, or not.
But all in all, the movie would have been top-notch fucking cool if it hadn’t been for the execrable performance of the lump who played the Ram’s estranged daughter. Evan Rachel Wood, as young as she is, already wears the chronically bitchy, moron-being-sarcastic facial expression of a mad divorced suburbanite. So how is she supposed to amp it up to look situationally pissed off at an absentee, mane-bleaching father? I don’t know how this rat-faced no-talent got this job, but she completely ruined the scene where she’s supposed to be bitching the Ram out for the last time and telling him to go away forever. She doesn’t look hurt in it, she just looks mean. She probably puts sand in her boyfriends’ underwear. She looks like her real-life father has been spit-polishing her ass for her with a soft cloth from the word go.
So the day after I see the movie, after a night of forcing everyone in shouting range to listen to me talk about it, I venture back to the Mall Zone to hit the grocery store. And on a tabloid cover in the check-out line, I find a dangerous piece of evidence favoring the disfavored science-ish of physiognomy: hey, Evan Rachel Wood really is kind of mean! Apparently she went to a movie-star party with Mickey Rourke, where he got drunk and pawed her (why he was doing that when he could have been drinking more for free is beyond me, but that’s outside the scope of this essay), and people started to speculate that maybe she was seeing him. Her response: “I’m not attracted to him, he’s too old for me.” Does she have the faintest idea how unprofessional this makes her sound? She is, apparently, not at all turned on by a master of her own supposed craft. And she flaunts it!
OK, fine, so his fingernails in that film looked a little less than pretty. But for all I know he did something to them on purpose to make them look fucked-up because he figured that’s the way the Ram’s hands would look. That’s the point! He’s an actor! He’s like the Ram: he will do anything he has to to make the art exactly right! Bitch, you can’t even fake-cry without making me laugh, and you think the world is going to give a damn whether you think the master is too old to be sexy? Christ! I’ll concede that, if you aren’t attracted to somebody, you can’t do anything about it. But you’re supposed to be an actor! You could have sucked on his ear, gone in the bathroom, gargled some Listerine, pretended you were still hung up on your ex Marilyn Manson (aim your own smart-ass comment at that barrel of fish), purred “Tempting, but no!” and we would have been none the wiser. Dumbass.
(P.S. Marisa Tomei was pretty terrific in that film, too, but since she didn’t say anything stupid, nobody seems to be talking about her. Sorry, Marisa.)
Click here to watch The Wrestler.