I never expected to love a movie about wrestling but here we are.
If past posts haven’t already made it abundantly obvious, I am not a big fan of sports. I can appreciate the level of athleticism and skill that they require, but ultimately I couldn’t care less about the outcome of any sports match. Movies about sports on the other hand, are a totally different story. More often than not, sports movies are hardly about the sport they’re depicting. Instead, they use the sport as a jumping off point to tell deeper stories about the power of family, the importance of perseverance, and overcoming adversity. Just take a look at A League of Their Own (1992), Bend It Like Beckham (2002), and The Blind Side (2009), three flawless movies that are mandatory viewing for any sports fan. The new wrestling-themed biopic, Fighting with My Family (2019), walks in the footsteps of these great movies, delivering a well-rounded film that is undoubtedly the best movie of 2019 so far. I had a ton of fun with this one.
Written and directed by Stephen Merchant, Fighting with My Family tells the true story of amateur wrestler Saraya “Paige” Bevis. From her time growing up in a family of wrestlers in Norwich, England, to her training with the WWE’s strenuous recruitment program, Paige struggles to make her family proud, achieve her own dreams, and deal with the WWE’s intense trainer, Hutch Morgan.
What a delightful surprise! A comedy-drama that is deserving of the name, Fighting with My Family succeeds in cohesively blending the two genres into one phenomenally-told and entertaining story. The witty dialogue, gut-busting physical comedy, and tongue-in-cheek jokes about the wrestling world are frequent and well-executed, as are the moving performances that anchor this heartfelt story’s central themes of familial love and ambition. It’s a challenging task to create a movie that handles both ends of the spectrum so well, but Fighting with My Family succeeds with flying colours. One minute I was howling with laughter and the next I was on the edge of my seat in anticipation to see what would happen next. I think this was one of the most earnest, uplifting, and pure movie-going experiences that I’ve had in a while. It’s rare that a movie manages to be extremely fun and wildly inspirational, but Fighting with My Family pulls if off, thanks in large part to its exceptional cast.
Starring as Paige is fresh-faced actress Florence Pugh, the guiding light in a movie already filled with brilliant performances. Pugh carries the film with a winning combination of fierce tenacity and boundless charm, solidifying her status as a star on the rise. Pugh drew me in and made the movie come alive, ensuring that no matter how often the movie talked about wrestling, I was still invested in Paige and her story. Pugh’s next mainstream project is the upcoming Little Women (2019), in which she stars alongside industry heavyweights like Meryl Streep and Laura Dern and I can’t wait. Just give her all the damn awards already.
Speaking of industry heavyweights, playing Paige’s parents are Lena Headey and Nick Frost, an onscreen pairing that I never knew I needed until seeing this movie, and now can’t get enough of. These two were perfection. As always, Frost is a comedic force to be reckoned with. So much so, that he was able to make a “punched in the nuts” joke feel new and fresh. Definitely not an easy feat. Headey is the perfect foil to Frost, and her subtle jabs and quotable comebacks will have Game of Thrones (2011 – 2019) fans see this queen in a whole new light. Headey is divine and I want only good things for her, so it pained me to endure the HORRIFIC wig that the hair department saddled her with for the entire movie. Be warned: There are several other questionable wigs in this otherwise perfect movie.
Remember the old Vince Vaughn? The one who starred in classic comedies that showed off his incredible range and charisma like Wedding Crashers (2005), and Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story (2004)? Well, I’m thrilled to report that he’s back. Playing smarmy trainer Hutch Morgan, Vaughn is sheer perfection. In Fighting with My Family, Vaughn is giving you classic Vince Vaughn-isms coupled with a tender performance that is shockingly sweet and adds an emotional weight to every scene he’s in. In this story about uplifting messages, Vaughn’s character is a reminder of the harsh reality of rejection that affects any performer, as well as a rallying mentor that encourages each of us to train harder and reach higher. Also, he’s remarkable hysterical from his first scene to his last. I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if he ended up being nominated for Best Supporting Actor – Musical or Comedy – at the 2020 Golden Globes. So, Dwayne Johnson, whom I’m normally indifferent to, also pops up in this movie in what can only be described as two extended cameos. Although, it’s a movie about professional wrestling, is anyone really surprised? I swear to God, this is hands-down the funniest fucking role I’ve ever seen Johnson in. Well, if you exclude that time he played a ridiculous CGI scorpion monster in The Mummy Returns (2001).
A fantastic inside look at the world of wrestling, Fighting with My Family is the right mixture of heart and humour that is sure to satisfy any viewer. I mean, it’s kind of perfect. A vibrant script, an engaging story, and characters you can’t help but root for ensure that Merchant’s solo directorial debut is one that simply can’t be missed. Seriously, except for the atrocious wigs, there wasn’t a single thing I disliked about this movie. Look, if you’re getting ME to like a movie about wrestling, than you know you’ve crafted something truly exceptional. Go see it!
Will you take a chance on Fighting with My Family?
Let me know in the comments or on social media!