Born into a tight-knit wrestling family, Paige and her brother Zak are ecstatic when they get the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to try out for the WWE. But when only Paige earns a spot in the competitive training program, she must leave her loved ones behind and face this new cutthroat world alone. Paige's journey pushes her to dig deep and ultimately prove to the world that what makes her different is the very thing that can make her a star.
Fighting With My Family is a biographical sports drama based on a 2012 documentary (The Wrestlers: Fighting With My Family) about the career of professional wrestler "Paige". Supposedly, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson saw the film at 3am while filming for a Fast & Furious film, and teamed up with Stephen Merchant to shoot a theatrical film adaptation of the documentary.
The title of the film tells you much of what you need to know about the focus of the film. Working two-fold, the film follows our young protagonist Saraya "Paige" Knight (portrayed by Florence Pugh) as she trains and wrestles together in her family's wrestling organisation; The World Association of Wrestling. On the other side of the coin, the film goes on to follow as Paige and her brother are invited to WWE tryouts, but only Paige is selected to move forward, creating tension and conflict between the siblings.
While the film is based in the WWE and wrestling sporting side of things, the main arc of the flick actually focuses on the family drama side of things, making the wrestling more of a subplot that can work in the films favour or detriment, depending on your point of view. If you are a huge wrestling fan who wants an in-depth look into what it takes to become a wrestler, you may be disappointed, but the emotional drama component of the film creates a story that is relatable to fans and non-fans together, increasing the potential reach of the film.
While the film is mostly accurate, liberties have been taken with some content to increase the dramatic element of the film. The only real significant difference comes in the form of Vince Vaughn's character Hutch Morgan, who plays the role of the NXT coach that trains all NXT recruits. The character is entirely fictional, where in real life there were four or five coaches that were involved in Paige's burgeoning career. Keeping up with multiple coaches coming in and out is an unnecessary addition to a film, so Vince Vaughn streamlined the process well, providing a grounded character that worked really well. I really do enjoy Vince Vaughn's more serious roles. Other changes are the addition of the whole "anti-sex symbol" theme (which in reality was more of a "pro-learning the wrestling moves" stance as Paige certainly used her sexuality to boost her popularity), and minor changes to The Rock's involvement and presence.
The Rock actually has very little involvement plot-wise in the film, his heavy presence in the marketing looking more like a method for boosting the profile of the film, rather than boosting the actual content of the story at all. There are actually a surprising number of big names in the cast list, despite the roles being rather limited. Nick Frost and Lena Headey play Paige's parents, and they do a brilliant job showing how important wrestling is to the family, as well as bringing up the whole idea that wrestling is actually still very dangerous, being "fixed, not fake".
The lead role played by Florence Pugh does look very similar to a young Paige, and did a good job bringing the emotional element to the film, but she lacked the presence in the ring. While nice that they got the actors and actresses to do their own stunts as much as possible, I think they really should have got the stunt doubles in a bit more towards the end of the film, as her skill level almost appeared to drop, rather than improve and the film progressed.
Fighting With My Family has a nice simple underdog story that really underplays the significance of the character. Paige playing a key role in bringing legitimacy and acceptance to Women's Wrestling in the WWE outside of just being women in bikinis slapping each other and pulling hair.
Personally, I would have loved to had more emphasis on the training stages of the film. As there was very little conflict at all, and minimal sense of competition or challenge. And even more of an epilogue than the couple of screens of text that explained the importance of Paige's career. I want to see it! I loved wrestling as a child, so I was much more interested in looking "behind the curtain" at how the WWE runs.
With very little conflict, often repeated dramatic scenarios and simple, but honestly, uninspired cinematography, Fighting With My Family is a fun and inoffensive film, that has a wide appeal, but little staying factor. You'll enjoy watching the film, but you probably won't remember it after a week.
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