Fighting with my Family
Starring Florence Pugh, Vince Vaughn, Jack Lowden, Nick Frost, Lena Headey, Dwayne Johnson
Like most true stories, Fighting With My Family, cherry picks the highlights from WWE Wrestler Paige’s journey from small town in England to the worlds biggest televised wrestling stage. Writer, director and actor Stephen Merchant (you saw him most recently in Logan) contorts this story into your run of the mill sports movie, only using the world of performance wrestling as the backdrop. It has charming moments, two scenes featuring producer Dwayne Johnson, and another transformative performance from Florence Pugh. Like most rags to riches stories set in the competitive sports area, Fighting With My Family hones in on fighting for your dreams and breaking through expectations. Merchant’s omits the drugs, sex scandals and darker moments of Paige’s life to keep this story on a PG-13 track.
Soap Opera in Spandex, WWE Recruiter Hutch (Vaughn) describes what his selectees are expected to bring on stage. Paige (Pugh) and her brother Zak (Lowden) have dreamt of going to America and joining the WWE their entire childhood. They grew up wrestling in their parents local show that attracted quite an enthusiastic crowd in Norwich, England. When their big chance finally arrives, Paige is chosen, and her brother is not. He’s devastated to the point that it nearly destroys the family. As Paige heads to Orlando Florida to begin training, she begins questioning her dedication or the need to please the family. “Be the first you” The Rock, a wrestling idol of Paige, tells her during an impromptu meeting. He encourages her to stop conforming to someone else’s idea of who she is supposed to become.
It’s a well catered film for the bleak February market, where anything mildly substantial this time of year will appear better than the low budget horror films and lazy sequels
What works with Fighting With My Family is the obtuse nature of the story. A family that literally fights to survive. The title and poster sell this as a movie about a group, but it’s more about Paige and her singular path to figure out who she really is. One Google search and you can see why much of the focus was brought back to the family and off her specifically, due to issues she faced later in her career. The focal point of the story becomes one siblings success versus the other’s failure and that’s when the script transforms into something more sustaining. Funny man Frost (Hot Fuzz) and Game of Thrones’ Headey don’t get the screen time there talents deserve. Expanding their characters roles is one benefit the film could have used.
In hindsight, Fighting With My Family doesn’t hold a lot of weight as a film, nor does it’s entertainment value stand up even hours after the credits role. It’s a well catered film for the bleak February market, where anything mildly substantial this time of year will appear better than the low budget horror films and lazy sequels. Both Pugh (who was fantastic two years ago in Lady McBeth) and Lowden (one of the highlights in Mary Queen of Scots) are rising stars with much better roles ahead of them. The material here is more for them to cut their teeth on, than sink praise into.
An admirable distortion of events that literally champions fighting for your dreams, yet ends up being all too forgettable.