Fighting with My Family - 2019
Director(s): Stephen Merchant
Writer(s): Stephen Merchant
Cinematography by: Remi Adefarasin
Editor(s): Nancy Richardson
Cast: Florence Pugh, Jack Lowden, Nick Frost, Lena Headey, Vince Vaughn, Aqueela Zoll, Kim Matula, Ellie Gonsalves and Dwayne Johnson
When I first saw this film announced, I approached it with a bit of trepidation. WWE produced movies do not have the best track record. However, the people attached behind the camera, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson and Stephen Merchant, and the unique background of Paige at the center of the story, gave me some hope for the film. Walking out of it having a blast and falling in love with this crazy family, I'm happy I gave it a shot. Let's talk about it.
The story centers around the rise to fame of Saraya "Paige" Knight (Pugh). Saraya grew up in a family obsessed with wrestling, and she and her brother had one dream in mind; make it to WWE. When they finally get the chance to try out for WWE, Paige is the only one chosen creating a divide between her and her brother, Zac (Lowden). Tryouts turn out to be harder that expected, both mentally and physically, pushing her to the breaking point, but with the help of her family she can shock the world and be the champion she was meant to be.
Stephen Merchant wrote the screenplay based on the 2012 documentary The Wrestlers: Fighting with My Family, giving him a deep insight into the psyche of all the family members. The love for both the sport and each other shines through each frame, instantly making you connect with their passions and goals. The drama between Paige and her brother comes across as heartfelt, and it is a tough position he is placed in, and one as an audience member makes you wonder how you would have dealt with the situation. Merchant's quick wit and dry humor is what makes this "by the numbers“ sports story of an underdog making it to the top stand out among the rest.
The best example of this humor and probably one of the best scenes of the entire film is when the family meets the parents of Zac's girlfriend, played by Merchant and Davis. They are upper-middle-class folk that don’t swear and have no idea what wrestling is, and they are dropped in the home of a former convict (mostly for violence) and a homeless woman. Who both are obsessed with wrestling and will defend it no matter what and have no problem showing their love for one another. I was laughing the entire time, as the kids try to keep the train in the rails and the parents are doing their best not to be their usual selves.
The acting is fantastic all around, bringing to life this over the top characters that are grounded in their love for one another. Florence Pugh is great as Paige, as she can jump from being emotionally drained to a quick-witted determined wrestler. Jack Lowden as Zac does a lot of the heavy lifting as his character is dealing with the fact that his dream of being in the WWE will never come to fruition. Lena Headey and Nick Frost have great chemistry, and they are the comedic backbone of the film, along with the sarcastic remarks of Vince Vaughn.
Fighting with My Family is a straight-forward underdog story, filled with montages and story beats we have come to expect from the sports genre. But the emotional core of the family is what makes you look past the structure of the genre and love the characters within it. Paige's story is a unique and crazy one filled with quirky over the top character, that makes sense when placed in the sport they idolize. Growing up as a wrestling fan I connect instantly to the passion fans have towards the sport and knowing this was all based on a true story only amplifies the shared joy you feel once she finally achieves her family's dreams. Stephen Merchant is why I love movies.
Fighting with My Family is Glass Half Full.
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