The tragicomic biopic FIGHTING WITH MY FAMILY Contrary to expectations fueled by advertising, it turns out to be an inspiring retelling of an incredible wrestling career, in which a wonderfully self-deprecating Dwayne Johnson is far from being the highlight. We reveal more about the film in our review.
The Plot Summary
For her family, wrestling is more than a sport, it’s the real thing in life – Paige (Florence Pugh) and her brother Zak (Jack Lowden), who grew up in provincial England, see their wildest dreams come true when they attend the tryout for the World Championships Wrestling Entertainment can compete. However, the siblings’ paths diverge when only Paige receives a place in the highly competitive training program. She has to leave her family and from now on face the merciless world of showbiz alone in the ring. She is not a conventional cheerleading beauty like most of her fellow competitors, but she has talent, a lot of ambition and a big goal in mind: she finally wants to live her dream of wrestling…
Explanation of the Ending
We have often complained here about incorrect film marketing. Trailers and commercials promise something completely different than what the cinema experience ultimately offers. As a rule, this is always a very cheap step, but above all it is like a boomerang against those responsible, because if you promote a “Drive” as an action film, more people might go in than a neo-noir thriller drama, but ultimately it only has a negative effect on the response. In the case of “Fighting With My Family” this procedure can be understood for the first time; at least related to the USA-speaking area. The trailers sell the tragicomic female wrestler biopic as the next Dwayne Johnson brawler comedy. He only played a small supporting role and co-produced the film and developed the concept. At the same time, the wrestling lobby here is much less developed than in the United States. And so it can hardly be assumed that anyone would watch “Fighting With My Family” if the biggest PR trump card in the form of the former wrestler and current Hollywood megastar were not put in the spotlight as prominently as they are has now done; just look at the poster. The best thing about the whole thing is that in the end it doesn’t really matter how you actually try to sell the film. It’s really strong – especially because it’s not a Dwayne Johnson brawler comedy.
Siblings Paige (Florence Pugh) (left) and Zak Knight (Jack Lowden) have been enthusiastic wrestlers since childhood.
It’s enough to take a look at where “Fighting With My Family” celebrated its world premiere at the end of January 2019: That was at the Sundance Film Festival; an event that specializes primarily in smaller independent productions, where many insider tips (“Saw”, “Donnie Darko”, “Little Miss Sunshine”…) were born. The first theatrical release on February 14th was only in selected cinemas, before the eleven million US dollar production received a wide release a good week later thanks to positive feedback. The film subsequently grossed more than three times its budget and received almost exclusively positive reviews from critics. But that’s no wonder, because “Fighting With My Family” turns out to be something like an all-round carefree package of a feel-good comedy that tells the tragic life story of former professional wrestler Saraya-Jade Bevis with a lot of sensitivity and never retold at the expense of cheap gags. You don’t have to be a wrestling fan to understand the significance of her story. The enthusiasm for the sport is transmitted through the Knight, who is at the center of the story, whose solidarity is at least as strong as the desire to one day be involved with the big players in the business is at least as great, so that it doesn’t take long until things happen the enthusiasm also passes on to the audience.
The film title “Fighting With My Family” is to be understood as absolutely ambiguous. In his 108-minute-long tragicomedy, director and author Stephen Merchant (who already worked with Dwayne Johnson on “Tooth Fairy on Probation”) not only tells the story of a sports-loving family and the rise of a single athlete, which is typical of a sports film. The battles that the individual family members have are primarily of an emotional nature. The focus here is primarily on the siblings Zak and Paige, whose close bond is put to a severe test by Paige’s career path. Although Merchant ultimately only goes through the classic stages of similar genre fare à la “Rocky” in the production – you can actually even set the clock based on the distance at which the rise, fall and rise again take place – he does this by focusing on Paige and her brother with so much sincerity that the sport itself suddenly takes on a much higher status than just physical exercise aimed at success. Instead, it’s about fears: On the one hand, Paige’s fear of not succeeding in business. On the other hand, Zak’s fear of being shattered by the shattered dream of a professional career. And ultimately the fear of both of them that all of this will break the sibling bond between them.
Dwayne Johnson appears briefly as himself in Fighting With My Family. Vince Vaughn plays the strict wrestling coach Hutch.
Stephen Merchant never artificially presses on the tear duct; Even if he clearly subordinates the credibility of some of the narrative developments in the second half (which the real Knight family always claims to have a veracity of 97 percent) to the dramaturgy, in the case of “Fighting With My Family” his focus is on fun – ironic when you look at how the real Paige’s career ultimately came to a tragic end. The cast also fits this; about that of comedian Nick Frost’s father Ricky Knight (“The World’s End”) is embodied, or the merciless WWE trainer Hutch Morgan by thoroughbred comedian Vince Vaughn (“Hacksaw Ridge – The Decision”)while leading actress Florence Pugh (“The Commuter”) proves to be a fantastic new discovery due to her versatile, self-sacrificing playing. However, it never gets really silly. Instead, the comedy often arises naturally from the situation and sometimes even gets stuck in your throat (for example when Stephen Merchant stages three former models and cheerleaders as the constantly revealing men’s dream of a stupid blonde, just for the main character Paige to blow this prejudice out of the water at a particularly powerful moment). Self-discovery and acceptance also play a major role in “Fighting With My Family” and ultimately make the film an absolutely inspiring, true story that ultimately illustrates the sport in a fascinating way, even for laypeople, through clearly filmed and thoughtfully choreographed wrestling scenes.
Conclusion: “Fighting With My Family” is a heartwarming story about family solidarity and an inspiring plea for belief in yourself. Director and author Stephen Merchant doesn’t actually say anything new. But he delivers what he says with passion and sincerity, so you can’t help but root for the ambitious wrestler Paige.
“Fighting With My Family” can be seen in USA cinemas from May 1st.