Fighting with My Family.
I used to be a huge WWE fan (back when it was still WWF) but I was a fan before the wrestler known as Paige became popular. Even though I didn’t know her, there were enough key factors here for me to be excited about this movie, so I went in hoping to be surprised.
The Knight family is a family of wrestlers, with their own wrestling federation in a small English town. The father (Nick Frost) and mother (Lena Headey) do most of the organizing, while the son Zak (Jack Lowden) and daughter Saraya (Florence Pugh) do most of the fighting. It’s Zak and Saraya’s dream to be signed to the WWE roster, so things look bright when a recruiter (Vince Vaughn) calls them to come audition. Things look dire though, when Saraya (now with the stage name “Paige”) is recruited but her brother isn’t. This is a story about the two of them and how this all plays out. We also get a few hefty cameos from Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson who produced this movie, which was directed and written by Stephen Merchant.
As an “inspirational” film, this totally works. It’s very easy to root for our two main heroes here and we get to see both of them struggle and triumph quite a few times. Both Florence Pugh and Jack Lowden are relative newcomers to mainstream Hollywood but they both deliver great performances, especially considering the physicality of what they’re doing.
This is also quite a funny movie, where we get much from comedic heavyweights such as Nick Frost, Vince Vaughn, and even The Rock himself. It is British humor, meaning I had a hard time keeping up with their quips and sometimes I didn’t even understand what they’re saying. Captions always help me when I’m watching at home, so maybe a rewatch someday will reveal a whole new layer of comedy.
I also appreciated the depth of the story here. It’s easy to focus on Saraya/Paige and her journey, but almost just as much time is devoted to Zak and what happens after he’s rejected. It’s a touching and ultimately more realistic story as opposed to Paige’s, so we get this interesting duality here.
It was also nice to see Vince Vaughn, it feels like it’s been awhile since we’ve seen him on the big screen. Here, while he’s witty and sharp, he also serves as a key motivator to Paige and serves almost a drill sergeant role, which totally works for him. I guess it reminded me most of his turn in Hacksaw Ridge, which I really appreciated a few years ago.
What doesn’t work?
True stories often don’t hold up after you look at what really happened and I made the unfortunate mistake of looking up some key moments from the film to see how the actual moment went, and the big climax of the movie is nothing like what the film portrays. Not to spoil anything but it’s embellished in a way to make Paige seem more like an underdog and more likable than what really transpired. If you don’t look into that, you can live happily in ignorance.
Even though Fighting with My Family is a pretty horrible name, the movie itself is a really fun and inspiring ride. It should hit hard for people that are (or were) fans of wrestling, yet it also seems approachable enough for most mainstream audiences to appreciate. It’s funny, heartwarming, and has some key life lessons to take away. The only real weakness was maybe how they veered from reality, but if you don’t look too hard into the backstory, this film should be a solid journey for you.