Fighting with My Family
Modern day wrestling shows are as staged as Broadway plays. However, there seems to be a thrill in pretending that it is completely spontaneous; audiences of reality television no doubt feel a similar way, wanting to buy into the ridiculousness in order to find an escape. Frequently the wrestlers themselves are trying to find an escape, if they manage to reach the WWE, the most prestigious organization in the game, they might even make a living out of it.
Fighting With My Family is the biopic of the wrester Paige (Florence Pugh), who became one of the youngest stars and champions of the WWE. The film looks at Paige’s origins in Norwich, England as part of a family of wrestlers who run a wrestling gym. Paige and her brother Zak (Jack Lowden) are aspiring wrestlers and their dreams seem to be on track when the WWE asks them down to London for try-outs.
Dwayne Johnson produced the film, himself a former WWE wrestling champion under his famed moniker “The Rock” and it’s curious to not that many wrestlers have made the jump to acting, as what they do in the ring is not that big a leap. This fake showmanship and the real camaraderie needed between the two wrestlers is explored intermittently in Fighting With My Family, but the film requires viewers to have some knowledge of the sport before. Netflix’s TV show GLOW contrasts with this film in that it solely focuses on the production being wrought and walks more uninitiated viewers through the inner-workings of the sport. Another big aspect of wrestling is the objectification of women, specifically women-wrestlers themselves. Fighting With My Family timidly touches on this objectification, by showing us Paige up against former models and dancers. However, the film never fully explores the pressures in this aspect of the industry (and how little it has changed) instead tacking on text at the end of the film informing us of how real-life Paige helped fight for greater equality and respect for women in the wrestling world. I would have much rather watched the film of Paige fighting to change these decades-old established norms and against a sexist WWE, but given that that same organization is producing the film, it was highly unlikely.
Fighting With My Family seems to want to focus more on showing an inside look at how a wrestling star is born. We get the view of the different stages of training and physical and emotional toll that they take. There are even very blatant dispelling of misconceptions of the sport, that give off the idea of marketing rather than wit. However, the film is in the capable hands of writer/director Stephen Merchant who has produced some of the best comedy series of the last decades (The Office, Extras). The British filmmaker brings heart and a classical film structure to Fighting With My Family that helps dispel most of the blatant marketing.
The performances are a delight to note, with Florence Pugh breaking out to American audiences with a brilliant and enrapturing lead performance (film buffs will know her from 2016’s Lady Macbeth). Jack Lowden also delivers a stellar performance as Zak, showing us his heartbreaking story and a sense of jealousy and pride clash in his head. The parents of the family are portrayed by Nick Frost and Lena Heady, and while in small roles they manage to bring a comedic spice as well as important depth to their characters, making the entire titular family come alive.
The film is a feel-good film about an underdog finding glory; it’s not really something you haven’t seen before. However, the elements are mixed well together, and the skilled hands of Merchant and the cast add heart and depth to a fairly enjoyable film.