Movie Review: Fighting with My Family
Director: Stephen Merchant
Writer: Stephen Merchant
by Jason Koenigsberg
It is surprising it took Vince MacMahon and WWE films this long to make a movie like Fighting with My Family. An inspirational sports film about the difficulty it takes for an individual to make it to wrestling superstardom. It took a long way to get here but Fighting with My Family is well worth it. The film opens up with images of The Rock Dwayne Johnson as a WWE champion during his wrestling heyday. Then it shows that we were watching a young brother and sister watching wrestling on TV as the girl changes the channel to ‘Charmed’ a show about witches that was popular around the same time. They fight over the remote, the dad played by Nick Frost comes in and shows them how to fight using proper wrestling maneuvers and immediately it is established that this is an unusual wrestling obsessed family.
This is a solid story about being an outcast from an eccentric family, as well as a story about what it takes to break into the major leagues of wrestling for WWE. The story is generic even though it is based on the life of real WWE Diva Paige. Despite the fact that it does not contain a single original thought, Fighting with My Family has a lot of heart, so much that you almost feel the characters hearts beating through the screen. It is amazing it works as well as it does and that is a testament to the performances and the hard work and dedication of writer/director Stephen Merchant.
Both siblings get called up to try out for WWE’s NXT division. The female makes it to the next round to go to Florida and her older brother does not so he has to stay home in cold, dreary England and help out with the family wrestling promotion business. The film parallels their struggles across the Atlantic with her trying to start a new life in America and make it big as a WWE Superstar while her brother goes through the motions and tries to support his girlfriend and new son. Fighting with My Family joins Kenneth Lonergan’s You Can Count on Me (2000) as being one of the best films about a brother and sister relationship. There are countless great films about brothers and male bonding or sisters and the growing pains they face, but there are not enough good stories about brothers and sisters and the love that they share.
Fighting with My Family works well from a technical standpoint making the film a powerful experience overall. There is a subtle change in the cinematography when Paige comes to sunny Florida for the first time. Later on, she has a not so subtle change to her appearance but the cues in the lighting really add an impact on a subliminal level about how her world is completely different from the gray England skies she grew up in. At times Fighting with My Family turns into a fish out of water tale. Once again, nothing new, but it works spectacularly well. Also, it is worth noting that this is a film about professional wrestling told from a female’s point of view. Coming out in February and making money in March is a shrewd move to capitalize on Women’s History Month as well as the upheaval Hollywood and the rest of our society is going through with the #MeToo movement. Even more poetic is the fact that our hero got her wrestling name ‘Paige’ from Rose McGowan’s character’s name on ‘Charmed’ and Ms. McGowan was one of the most vocal victims of Harvey Weinstein and one of the most prevalent faces of #MeToo.
Fighting with My Family is an inspirational film with a good message about family and never giving up. It is guaranteed to please wrestling fans and non-wrestling fans alike. It made me smile from ear to ear and sympathize with some very unusual characters and was also very mature in the way that it humanized some supporting characters that were Paige’s prettier and less experienced rivals in NXT as she was training. There are moments where she is put in her place for making assumptions about her competitors judging them as just pretty models. It does not take the easy way out just making smaller characters one-note good guys or bad guys but allows the viewer to understand that they have stories as well. These moments all add up to making Fighting with My Family a powerful and emotional film that the whole family can enjoy.