"Wrestling for Success"
What You Need To Know:
FIGHTING WITH MY FAMILY is a surprisingly vibrant, extremely entertaining movie. As Paige, Florence Pugh delivers a star-making turn that’s funny, fierce and emotionally affecting. The movie is deftly written and directed by Stephen Merchant, the man behind the iconic British TV hit THE OFFICE. FIGHTING WITH MY FAMILY has a fair amount of foul language, but it has a strong moral, pro-capitalist worldview extolling achievement, family, hard work, forgiveness, teamwork, and empathy for strangers.
FIGHTING WITH MY FAMILY is the often comical story of the WWE pro-wrestling league’s first female superstar wrestler, Paige, and how she and her family struggled yet held together in loving support during her arduous rise to fame. FIGHTING WITH MY FAMILY has a strong moral worldview that’s pro-family and extols hard work, but it’s marred by foul language and crude comments, as well as very frequent over-the-top (but not bloody or graphic) wrestling style violence.
Paige (played by Florence Pugh) is the teenage daughter alongside two brothers, Zak and Nick, in an unique working-class family that runs its own hardscrabble low-rent wrestling league in a rundown area of England. They watch WWE wrestling from America regularly and with gusto, and dream of sending Paige and Zak to the States to wrestle there. There’s a sad reality that’s already affected them. The oldest son, Nick, is spending years in prison for a violent drug-fueled rampage after he was rejected at a WWE audition years ago.
Paige and Zak nonetheless submit their videos regularly, hoping for an audition, until one night they get a call telling them to audition, because an American talent scout and coach (Vince Vaughn) is coming to London. They excitedly attend and even more excitedly bump into Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson (who produces the movie) and receive encouragement from him to become their own star creation. “Don’t be the next Rock,” he advises. “Be the first you.”
In a brutal yet funny audition, a big group of hopefuls face off against each other, but in the end Hutch only picks Paige. Period. Her brother Zak is devastated. Facing a continued life of hardship with his pregnant girlfriend, Zak spirals into depression and loses his sense of purpose in helping poor children avoid street trouble through wrestling lessons in the family’s academy.
Meanwhile, Paige heads for her new challenge: Facing off against dozens more people in America for the final cut that could send her into wrestling in the WWE’s biggest matches. Along the way, she faces particular challenges from four blonde Americans she believes hate her but winds up learning lessons in empathy and teamwork along the way.
FIGHTING WITH MY FAMILY is a surprisingly vibrant, extremely entertaining film, far better than one would have any right to expect when hearing that it’s about the life of a pro wrestler. The reason for this is not only the terrific performance of Florence Pugh in the lead (a star-making turn that’s funny and fierce, yet emotionally affecting when it needs to be); but also, the fact that it’s written and directed by Stephen Merchant, widely considered a comedy genius for co-creating the British version of the classic sitcom THE OFFICE.
Merchant knows how to make all manner of people come to life in a deeply human way, and then find the funny in them as individuals. He digs deep into the financial struggles and personal pains of Paige’s family. For example, her father (Nick Frost) is a former convicted thief, and her mother (Lena Headey) was a drug abuser until love with her husband helped her straighten out her life.
Thus, with all the life pitfalls surrounding Paige as she sees one brother in prison and another facing life as an unexpected young father, the movie makes the stakes incredibly real and huge for the young dreamer. This gives the audience a tremendous amount of rooting interest for her that matches the spirit of the best sports underdog movies like the original ROCKY.
Vince Vaughn nearly steals the movie with his best and funniest performance in years as the fast-talking coach. Combined with an impressively slimmed-down physique, he looks and acts nearly as great as he did in his 1996 debut with SWINGERS. This could be a very big comeback for the openly conservative, Catholic actor.
FIGHTING WITH MY FAMILY does feature a fair amount of foul language, including several crude taunts that involve sex or bodily functions. These are mitigated by the fact that all the characters have limited formal educations. The violence is all of the toss-about wrestling variety, and there’s no sex on or offscreen. The good news is that FIGHTING WITH MY FAMILY has a strong moral, pro-capitalist worldview that serves up healthy doses of positive lessons about family, forgiveness, hard work, teamwork, empathy for strangers, and helping others.