Writer/director Stephen Merchant has taken on the duties of helming a biographical sports movie that will please fans of the WWE and become obsessed all over again. For me, I don’t exactly care about the sport. I believe my sister and cousin were huge fanatics when they were younger, but I couldn’t get into it. They showed off some killer moves in the arena, but I knew deep down it’s all fake. But making a movie that non-fans of wrestling could easily get invested in, including me.
Fighting with My Family is the true story about Paige (Florence Pugh), the youngest woman to win the Diva Championship, and how her family has been obsessed with wrestling. They believe fighting aggressively is a way of showing that it’s in their blood, especially her and her brother Zak “Zodiac” (Jack Lowden) in Norwich, England. Their once-in-a-lifetime chance has come for them when they try out for WWE and earn their shot.
Not understanding how I would react to this film since my knowledge of wrestling is limited, this turned to be one of the biggest surprises of the year, and I can’t believe I missed out on seeing this in theaters. Fighting with My Family did its job in presenting itself as a sports movie that’s all about not giving up on your jobs and determining to be the best. Think of this as the Rudy of wrestling movies.
The performances are something to enjoy, especially for Pugh. Her as Paige was an amazing portrayal of someone that paved the way for more women to fight in the WWE. This had to make me care about Paige with her downfalls and attempting to be the best. Luckily, it did. Her appearance of dark hair and goth-like look might differ from the other women who are involved in the program, but she’s a true fighter and just doing it to make her family proud. Pugh provides a performance that I wasn’t expected a lot from, but she truly was great.
Everybody else from Lowden Nick Frost, and Lena Headey didn’t let the movie down whenever they appear on the screen. And Vince Vaughn, in one of his better performances we’ve seen in a while, was also funny as the recruiter and coach for NXT, Hutch Morgan.
Dwayne Johnson, who also co-produced the film, appearances in the film are very short, but it ends up becoming memorable when it turns out that he’s one reason Paige made it up to the big leagues. He also gives the two siblings some advice that’s part-funny, part inspiring.
Easily the movie’s biggest strength goes to the relationship between Paige and Zak along with the family dynamic too. You see that both of them have dreamt of becoming wrestlers when they were kids, and as the time has come for them, sometimes it’s hard to realize the world doesn’t give you everything on a silver platter. One made the cut, the other still has to live their passion without making them bigger, which causes some family drama in the mix that wasn’t seen as flat and almost personal for someone like the both of them to understand.
Merchant behind the script and camera benefited in making the story work. Some moments made me laugh unexpectedly, and there weren’t too many jokes that comprise the dramatic scenes that inject that heart. Actually, Vaughn provides most of the funniest lines. It can be predictable if you already know the story, which didn’t bother me that much since I didn’t know about Paige before watching it. Merchant wrote a good script, although I wished his direction towards the second-act was a little better in pacing. Fans might notice they left certain details out after her 2014 match, but this was just about her journey into being famous.
By the end, Fighting with My Family was an entertaining and worthy underdog story about taking chances of achieving your dreams to the next level. It just takes someone who might not be seen as normal to inspire many others out there. Good for WWE for producing a movie that wasn’t completely awful. Grade: B+