Family has always got to come first…even when it means putting them in the rear view mirror…
I won’t lie that there’s no genuine surprises in the new film Fighting With My Family but it works the angles of the sports drama so darn well thanks to some well executed direction and some genuine star power in the making from its leading lady.
Born into a tight-knit wrestling family, Paige and her brother Zak are ecstatic when they get the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to try out for WWE. But when only Paige earns a spot in the competitive training program, she must leave her family and face this new, cut-throat world alone. Paige’s journey pushes her to dig deep, fight for her family, and ultimately prove to the world that what makes her different is the very thing that can make her a star.
It’s hardly a formula that reinvents the wheel but Fighting With My Family is a surprisingly solid and entertaining flick as Writer/Director Stephen Merchant shows a real knack for storytelling and Florence Pugh shows real star power that she carries over from things like Lady Macbeth & Outlaw King.
You’d never imagine that ‘Oggy” from the UK version of The Office and Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson would make for an excellent team, but I guess crazier things have happened in this business. Pulling from the real life story of Saraya Jade Bevis in her rise to WWE stardom as ‘Paige’, Merchant showed a steady hand as a storyteller crafting solid balance between genuine heart and the sardonic humor that helped make him someone what of a household name and it’s this style that actually allows him to rise above the faceless masses and make room for himself as a genuine cinematic storyteller.
Hardcore fans of the WWE will be a little disappointed in the fact that Merchant plays a little fast and loose with the history of her story even though he still maintains the necessary beats. It’s certainly not playing ‘verbatim’ as it all happened, but with producer Dwayne Johnson taking a small role as himself along with the full cooperation of World Wrestling Entertainment did go a long way into making this feel legit and not like something that would have been relegated to the video on demand section, ultimately getting buried. Merchant lets a rough around the edges charm in this story and it’s working class background find its way to the surface through the no nonsense energy channeled into a very good leading performance.
Florence Pugh is pretty well a star in the making and she proves it here with an ease that you’d expect from someone who has way more than thirteen on screen credits to her name. As Paige she manages to walk both sides of the razor’s edge as a young insecure performer who is still coming into her own who also really doesn’t give a flying f*** what anybody thinks of her. Pugh simply owns the frame at every moment and can work seamlessly between the drama and the comedic moments of the story that all come together so naturally.
Lena Headey and Nick Frost are absolute anchors in the story as her parents who are pushing her to achieve her dreams (that are also kind of their dreams) and they also get a solid story arc by being able to divorce themselves from that dream of fame and being happy for their daughter. Jack Lowden is also pretty great as her brother Zak who doesn’t quite make the cut for the WWE while Vince Vaughn is hiss sardonic self as the enigmatic trainer getting these future WWE superstars ready for the big time.
All in all, Fighting With My Family could have been just another sports movie but thanks to some well placed wit and genuine charm you’ll find yourself rooting for Paige to succeed right along with the millions…and millions of fans across the world.