Mickey Rourke received his first Oscar nomination for portraying Randy "The Ram" Robinson in The Wrestler.
Mickey Rourke's performance here most certainly has an extra quality due to his long troubled career before the Wrestler. Rourke has some detractors here for playing himself, which certianly is a blatant rather foolish statement because what Rourke does here, is anything but just simply act as himself. He may certainly channel himself, and his experiences but almost any actor does that, and rarely do actors ever do as well as Rourke in this film.
The Ram at the beginning of the film is not shown to be the best off fellow, in fact he lives pretty shabbily, and seems to not really have any meaningful relationships in his life. He was a big star in the professional wrestling world though at one time. Rourke is extremely good here, because he certainly shows just the tired aged demeanor of the man in his rather exasperated way of just doing his day to day tasks. Rourke is especially in good in showing that he his time really was the 80's and certainly seems a little lost, such as when he fails to understand a young local kid's description of a modern game.
Rourke though shows that The Ram is not entirely without his small pleasures in his life, he does have a little fun for example with the local kids, but that certianly does not overcome his age. What does overcome this more mentally, although not physically, is found in his wrestling experience, both at local little conventions, and matches at rather small venues.
Rourke here is especially good because he shows Randy's charisma, and presence he has in the ring. Rourke is natural in the ring, and he finds the right believable camaraderie with the other wrestler that works extremely well. Rourke shows that in the ring Randy is in his own, and suggests his past as the wrestling superstar.
Randy though after a brutal extreme wrestling match and suffers his heart attack and has to quit wrestling. He decides to try to create a relationship with a local stripper Cassidy (Marisa Tomei). It is an interesting relationship because the stripper constantly rebukes him due to her defenses due to her profession. It is not cold, but sort of harsh, but Rourke is extremely good because of his earnestness in the relationship even if it not all shared. Rourke shows that Randy desperately needs the relationship, and it is the desperation that makes him keep trying.
At the same time he tries as well to try to once again create a relationship with his estranged daughter. Rourke shows quite clearly his torrid history with his daughter, and how he really does not know her well at all, due to his complete awkwardness talking about her earlier with Cassidy. Rourke as well shows that still shows his desperation makes him still try, and that he does have a love for his daughter even if he himself can't always remember that. This is of course shown best by his "piece of meat speech" which could have easily been overly melodramatic, but because of Rourke emotional honesty the scene is incredibly effective.
Randy also works more at his supermarket job by working behind a deli, which may be for me, the best part of his performance. Rourke's performance is amazing simply, when he once again finds the old Randy but this time as just a worker in the deli. He once again shows his charisma underneath that age once more, in a simply great scene. Rourke is outstanding in his performance, as he is humorous, a very entertaining and all that Randy is doing is working at a deli.
Randy life though never reforms as he wishes, despite his attempts, but that is due to his own destructive behavior. Rourke makes Randy's downfall believable because Randy is never portrayed as perfect, and Rourke always presents that his trying to fix his life, is always part of his desperation in life. Rourke's performance simply is outstanding becuase he perfectly mixes each part of his life so well, his mistakes, his tries, his success and his failure.