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Biopics, especially ones that deal with the subject of sports, have certain sign posts that must be approached carefully. Those moments, when used incorrectly, can be clichés. However, if used properly, they can be significant touchstones that really tie the film together. One such concept that writer/director Stephen Merchant originally wanted to avoid using in Fighting With My Family was that of the training montage. But, as he explains below, that device basically cried out to be used in the telling of WWE Superstar Paige’s road to glory. Merchant explained this thusly:
I thought, ‘I’m not going to have a sporting training montage, right?’ Every movie from Rocky to The Fighter has the sequence in which the person trains / works out to try and pursue the dream. I thought, ‘Well, I won’t do that, because everyone’s done that.’ And then we were cutting the movie, my editor and I, and we were like, ‘Damn, I wish there was a montage here,’ because that’s what you want. You want that. Honestly, I tell you, you think you don’t, but you damned well do. So then we did one, and I love it.
The montage is something that has been mocked so often in parodies and comedies throughout history that it’s kind of hard to take it seriously. Perhaps the apex of poking fun at this practice was the song from Matt Stone and Trey Parker’s Team America: World Police, as they admitted in one the film’s songs that “you’ve gotta have a montage.”
So it’s certainly easy to write off the practice of showing a period of time in quick, but progressive narrative succession as something that’s earn an eye roll or a derisive chuckle. But, as Stephen Merchant himself admitted, that moment is sometimes necessary for the audience to view the journey of films such as Fighting With My Family as a satisfying and serious enterprise.
In particular, he described his feelings about the training montage in Fighting With My Family through remarks below, obtained throughout our talk with him during the press day for his latest film.
It’s tricky, because there’s some things which feel like a cliché, but which if they’re not in the movie, you feel short-changed […] Sometimes, the clichés you can’t avoid, because actually you’re sort of itching for it. It’s something in our DNA, we want certain things.
If you have enough of an underdog that the crowd can root for, then the basic rule of thumb is that they’ve earned the right to use the montage. It certainly feels like Stephen Merchant understands that concept, as you can see below in the footage from this discussion about the art of using this unfairly maligned mechanic.
Yes, the montage has been used often enough that people might still laugh at it, but if you’re using it right, then you shouldn’t even have a doubt that the audience will take it seriously. But don’t take our word for it, as Fighting With My Family is in theaters now for you the eager audience to enjoy at your earliest convenience. In the meantime, keep watching us here at CinemaBlend, as we’ll have more coverage from our experiences with the talent behind this wrestling crowd-pleaser.