REVIEW: “Fighting With My Family”

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Seasoned wrestling fans probably remember the industry-shaking WWE debut of Paige. It was 2014 and the night after the company’s biggest event Wrestlemania. Paige, just 21 at the time, won the Women’s Chapionship (then called the Diva’s title) in her very first match becoming the youngest women’s champion in WWE history.

Paige’s career has since been marked by some enormous highs, unfortunate controversies, and a heartbreaking early retirement due to a severe neck injury. “Fighting With My Family” tells the remarkable underdog story of the young woman from Norwich, England, her eccentric blue-collar family, and her improbable rise to WWE Superstardom.

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Florence Pugh plays Paige whose real name is Saraya-Jade Bevis. She was born and raised in and around wrestling. Her parents (played by Nick Frost and Lena Headey in a crafty bit of casting) ran their own one-horse family wrestling outfit. Paige was closest to her brother Zak (Jack Lowden) and both dreamt of becoming professional wrestlers in the WWE.

While wrestling was the family business it was far from a lucrative one. Yet despite the deck being stacked against them, Paige and Zak push towards their dream with their loving and peculiar parents supporting them along the way. They finally get the call they’ve been waiting for – a chance for brother and sister to try out for the WWE. It leads to Paige being invited to go to the United States to compete for a roster spot. Zak doesn’t make the cut.

Writer-director Stephen Merchant does a good job balancing the wrestling aspect of the story with the family elements. That’s important because, as the title suggests, family is very much a fundamental part of Paige’s life. From having to leave her folks behind in England to the stress on her relationship with her heartbroken and envious brother. Merchant makes it a crucial part of his storytelling which is a steady blend of comedy and drama.

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A lot of credit should go to Pugh as well. She’s one of several young actresses working today who have shown immense talent and an understanding of their craft that goes beyond their age. Pugh effortlessly falls into a world she has admitted to knowing nothing about. You would never know it. We also get a really good Vince Vaughn performance. He plays the fictional character Hutch Morgan, a developmental trainer and talent scout who gives Paige her shot.

“Fighting With My Family” was quite the surprise. It actually packs far more heart and more character depth than I was expecting. It is a little predictable and at times you can see it needlessly stretching itself to be as crass as its PG-13 rating will allow. But it does go to show how well things can come together when you have a strong cast and a good story to tell.

VERDICT – 4 STARS

4-stars

10 thoughts on “REVIEW: “Fighting With My Family”

  1. I love all the praise this movie is getting. It was such a great movie and better than I ever thought it might be, and loads of us are feeling the same way. I really hope Steven Merchant writes and directs again soon because he’s got some serious talent!
    Great review 🙂

    • It’s so much better than I ever expected it to be. Paige has a fascinating story and I love how the movie spent so much time on her family dynamic.

  2. Great review! i’m so looking forward to to this, the cast looks great and I love biopics especially that I’m not very familiar with this story

    • Thanks! It does a really good job of fleshing it all out in a way that doesn’t require any real knowledge of her story. And Pugh is such a good actress. She’s going to be around for a while.

  3. Gotta agree — this was a really winning movie. Sure the narrative is basically Rocky with a wrestler instead of a boxer, but the film has real conviction. It’s an above-average sports biopic, and not just because of the novelty of the sport it involves. I’m also happy you mentioned Vince Vaughn — this really was one of his more solid performances.

    • Vaughn really grabbed my attention. He was very good and quite funny. His “Make-a-Wish kids” line was the best. But I love what you said – “conviction”. It has a ton of that!

  4. I definitely want to see this because of Pugh although I’m aware of the dramatic liberties they did take with Paige’s real story. It’s a shame she had to retire although I think it’s for the best considering where WWE is at right now and wow… I hope they go out of business because sports entertainment fucking sucks.

    • There are some liberties for sure especially in the final act. It still tells a really good story and it has a surprisingly strong character focus. And isn’t Pugh great?

  5. I’m glad you liked this too! The actors were fantastic and it’s nice to see the highlights of Paige’s beginning, because it’s so sad where it ended up.
    I need to know if the girl playing AJ Lee was miming AJ’s prerecorded voice or doing an impression, because while she looked nothing like her, she sounded good.

    • I really did. And you’re right, the actors are really really good. I like Pugh a lot. She has played such a variety of roles. As for AJ, I’m pretty sure it was an impression since that scene was quite different from really happened (for example Paige never froze).

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