Friday, May 8, 2009

Double Bill: The Wrestler and The Show Off

Randy 'The Ram' Robinson's wrestling career peaked long ago, but it peaked big. And we know why. In The Wrestler's finest scene, Mickey Rourke charms dozens of patrons at a grocery store meat counter, reminding us that he dominated the squared circle through charisma, not just muscle. But cutting meat is quiet work--too quiet for a man who misses his audience. Had Randy settled for a more stable living, right from the start, who knows how wretched he might have turned out? He might even be as pitiful as Aubrey.

Aubrey is a big man in a small room; a would-be mover and shaker with the desire for greatness and perhaps, the talent to achieve it. The 'perhaps' is what tortures him. Aubrey (Ford Sterling) is a fraud who justifies his fraudulence because it is a means to an end. He has real achievements: a decent desk job and a wife who loves him; but their blandness makes his ambitions seem all the more ridiculous. Randy, at least, was 'The Wrestler'; Aubrey's just 'The Show Off.'
The Show Off is more comic than The Wrestler, but both films ask serious questions about the pursuit of greatness. We wonder how many good things a man is willing to destroy in order to be great; then we wonder whether a great man is synonymous with an admired one. Finally, we ask whether Randy and Aubrey, as likeable and talented as they are, can be great at all. Maybe they aren't even good.

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