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A typical sports movie is an easy sell, provided you’re at the very least a fan of the game being played. But to really become a widely successful film, filmmakers need to also have a hook for folks that don’t particularly subscribe to the activity being depicted. While Fighting With My Family might look to some as just a plain old wrestling movie, it is not. It truly exists as a cozy story about the power of family, and the determination of a dreamer.
Fighting With My Family is based on the true story of Sareya-Jade Bevis, better known to the world as WWE Superstar Paige (Florence Pugh). Raised by parents with a devotion to wrestling (Nick Frost & Lena Headey,) Paige and her brother (Jack Lowden,) aspired to try out for the WWE. Soon, the siblings found themselves on the road to tryouts, with Paige going the distance to become the youngest WWE Divas champion.
With their latest film, Fighting With My Family, WWE Films proves that anyone can get into the inspirational biopic game. But it’s the talents of writer/director Stephen Merchant that really make the story work, as he approaches the material with an eye that helps entice viewers both within and outside of the WWE’s sphere of influence. And while the film definitely hits the standard biopic markers, it does so with gusto, and with a degree of care that doesn’t forget to balance things out with a good dose of humor.
On top of Stephen Merchant’s creative skills steering the ship, Fighting With My Family showcases a roster of acting talent that really feel like they’re a family unit. Nick Frost and Lena Headey are, quite possibly, one of the most adorable screen couples in recent memory, as their portrayal of Paige’s parents shows them working with material that strays off their usual casting paths.
Meanwhile, Jack Lowden gets to walk the line between being a supporting yet jealous brother as Zach, Paige’s brother who joins her for the journey but is eventually not chosen to proceed. It’s this role that helps add some additional gravitas to our protagonist’s journey, as we see this affect Paige throughout various points of her burgeoning career. And Lowden sticks the landing without question.
Which, of course, leads to the praises of Florence Pugh’s efforts to bring conviction to the role she was cast to play. And, quite frankly, Fighting With My Family is the sort of film that should put Pugh in even higher demand, as she takes every turn in the story with just the right amount of emotion, confrontation, and humanity. It’s this sort of performance that helps tie both the ensemble of characters and the events that they experience together into a cohesive whole, and Florence Pugh does this rather well.
Despite the even handed approach to the subject matter of both Paige and the WWE, Fighting With My Family does still feel like a bit of a cheerleading section for the world of the pre-eminent pro-wrestling outfit. It’s not quite a warts and all biopic, and its charms would still work better on an audience familiar with the organization’s history and product, as well as a forgiving attitude towards both. But at the same time, there’s so much charm involved throughout the entire film that it’s not hard to enjoy this film, as it’s a familiar story told with impressive skill.
Fighting With My Family is a smackdown between humor and heart, telling a story that inspires and entertains with a unique blend of tones. Even better, it’s a movie that can be enjoyed by wrestling devotees and newcomers to the sport, with the latter quite possibly being converted into fans by time Paige’s story has been told. Many films tell us that dreams can come true, but Fighting With My Family shows to what extent that adage applies, as well as what the personal cost to get there looks like.