Monday 4 March 2019

Film Review: Fighting With My Family

A heartwarming film about a scrappy upstart who comes from nothing, Fighting With My Family is overflowing with fighting spirit.

Saraya Knight (Florence Pugh) has been surrounded by wrestling her whole life; her mum (Lena Headey) and her dad (Nick Frost) are both wrestlers, and her brother Zak (Jack Lowden) harbours dreams of competing in the WWE. But the bright lights of Wrestlemania are 1000 miles from the streets of Norwich, England, and it'll take some miracle to put this family on the map.

When Saraya and Zak are spotted by a WWE talent scout (Vince Vaughan), their dreams feel that little bit closer – but the path to stardom is longer, windier and harder to traverse than they could have imagined.

Written and directed by Stephen Merchant, Fighting With My Family is the story of Paige, a WWE superstar who shot to stardom at the tender age of 21. For those in the know, her journey is set in stone, with this film a celebration of WWE, its characters and its fans; but for viewers who aren't familiar with WWE, Fighting With My Family overcomes the 'language barrier' of its niche subject to woo hearts and minds.

Here's the thing; I couldn't care less about wrestling. The only wrestlers I know are those who have gone on to star in movies, like The Rock, Dave Bautista and John Cena. So Fighting With My Family is facing an uphill battle to win me over; I still can't wrap my head around WWE and its performative narratives – where does reality meet fiction? How can someone 'make it' in a sport that is 'scripted' or 'staged'?

The great thing about this film is that it allows you to forget all that. Rather than the ins and outs of WWE, Fighting With My Family asks you to instead invest in its characters; the starry-eyed Saraya who flies to Florida to chase her dream; the lost and lonely Zak who is left behind in Norwich; the ragtag group of misfits who they train at their gym. Merchant populates his film with humour to spare, with Frost the MVP in this regard.

Vaughn's tough-as-nails coach starts out one-sided (remiscent of his role in Hacksaw Ridge), but Merchant's screenplay finds time to add even the slightest smidge of depth to almost every role. A clique of 'mean girls' at Saraya's Florida training camp is a prime example. The poster for this film puts Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson front and centre, and while his actual role is more like two or three extended scenes, it feels like a lot more because he brings so much to those moments.

The Verdict: 6.5/10

Fighting With My Family is fairly cliched and formulaic, but an abundance of charm elevates it from forgettable to a fun time. It's not screaming out to be seen on the big screen right away, but fans of WWE will no doubt get a kick from seeing their heroes canonised on celluloid.

Fighting With My Family is in cinemas across Australia from Thursday March 21.

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