A movie, whether based on a true story or fictional one, may be a blend of both facts and fictionalized scenes and events. “FIGHTING WITH MY FAMILY” seems to be case in point depending on whom you speak to. But instead of pointing out fact v. fiction, just sit back watch and enjoy this one folks. Let go of the being overly critical all the time as ‘Fighting with my Family’ might have its flaws and not be completely true down to the line, it definitely does have its charms.
Probably the first thing you will do is a double take on the director and writer and make sure if it is THE Stephen Merchant doing triple duty here writing/directing/starring in this film. Turns out it is, which immediately ups the ‘interesting’ level a notch or two. Even more crazy is to think that Merchant did not know a thing about wrestling before taking on the project.
Inspired by the story of the Knight family, the film tells the story of Saraya “Paige” Bevis (Florence Pugh) and her desire to become a female wrestler. With the odds against her, along with a family of completely wrestling crazed parents in dad Ricky (Nick Frost), mom Julia (Lena Heady) and brother Zak (Jack Lowden), all of whom put on wrestling shows and train others in Norwich, a small suburb in the UK. Paige and her brother get called up for a WWE tryout, but with only Paige making the cut, Zak is completely devastated and Paige must deal with not only this, but the drastic change her life is taking and the hard road to living out her dream of being a WWE Superstar.
The next hour is filled with what it’s like to attend the WWE school of hard knocks led by Hutch (Vince Vaughn), and how to alienate and then make best friends with your competition. This part can sometimes just be all to consuming as we’ve seen this type of story many times before. Overcoming adversity to win the challenge at the end and it’s here that the film can’t help feeling clichéd. The saving grace here is the flashbacks to Zak being left behind in Norwich and where his life is heading, or seemingly not heading to and it’s got some truly lovely, heartwarming story line. But training montage footage galore, sibling rivalry leading to a profound confrontation that resolves the issue, and the underdog overcoming the odds gives no surprises to the ending. Now of course, it’s going to pump in the Hollywood magic to try to help the movie. The Rock is throughout the movie, and while he wasn’t truly vital to Paige’s career, his scenes are fun. The actors do an amazing job with their roles, and have very good comedic chemistry. This movie is witty and charming but at times, it’s all over the place.
The initial presentation of the Knight family rang true, authentic and affable. Putting it in their actual home was a good idea. Frost and Headey were great in the roles as Paige’s parents and Puge did a very good job as Paige. Lowden as her brother made a good mentor, but it also tried to take the high road and make Paige an angelic character. However, from what I understand, if you are a fan of Paige or the Knight family at all, you will quickly start to see fictionalized moments, exaggerations and inaccuracies. These are something that as a viewer who has no knowledge of the wrestling world, will not impact in the slightest. No matter this situation, everyone will recognize names such as Hulk Hogan and ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin – and of course The Rock with his signature “If you smell what The Rock is cooking” done a few times for good measure – makes you realize how far this guy has come.
Overall, the film maintains a good balance of comedy and drama and you don’t need to know anything about WWE or sports entertainment to enjoy the film. Merchant does a good job for his first run here.
Review Screening Monday, February 11, 2019 ~ courtesy of LAFTV meetup
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