REVIEW: Fighting With My Family

I’m going to be straight with you – I’m a genius. I make the people of University Challenge look like pebbles. There’s very few topics I know nothing about.

Except for women and wrestling.

And on a different note, I was recently asked to attend a screening of Fighting With My Family, a movie about the world of women’s wrestling. Ah.

Stephen Merchant spent a lot on the cast, and forget to budget for belts.

Fighting With My Family tells the tale of Saraya “Paige” Bevis, who goes from her normal life in Norwich, to winning the WWE Divas Championship in 2014, while competing with her jealous brother, Zac, as he, too, wished to become a WWE wrestler. (Although, winning the Divas Championship would’ve been a lot harder for him, given the penis between his legs. Or, so I assume – I’ve never looked. Got it?!)

Aside from co-directing Cemetery Junction with Ricky Gervais – a film which I thoroughly enjoyed – this is Stephen Merchant’s only other feature film which he has directed; and it is a triumph, coming from someone who would voluntarily drink bleach than watch someone do a backflip off of some ropes and onto another bloke. That’s all wrestling is, right?

Therefore, I can’t even begin to imagine how excited actual wrestling fans would be by the prospect of this film.

“We should have never super-glued our hands like this. Who is it benefitting?”

Stephen’s proved his talent previously, by directing several episodes of Extras – include the greatest moment in television history, whereby Warwick Davis gets kneed in the face – as well as having written episodes of The Office, Hello Ladies and Life’s Too Short. Fighting With My Family is a near-brilliant film. Might I stress “near”, however.

On occasions, the humour can be a bit cringeworthy. Which is a shock when the movie boasts comedy talent as Nick Frost, Vince Vaughn and Julia Davis. A lot of jokes felt childish and fell flat. One gag was so obvious, it was like getting a bowling ball to the testicles. In fact, that was the gag. Barry Chuckle would be spinning in his grave. Other jokes saw the prudish, bookworm mother shouting “bitch” at a television screen, and parents encouraging their two young children to fight.

That’s not to say that there isn’t humour in this story. Nick Frost is a stand-out, and does deliver some good laughs.

As someone who once strived to be a comedian – and stopped after being heckled in a restaurant by someone merely repeating the word “nose” (aiming at my less-than-average body part) – comedy is my favourite genre, but I oddly enjoyed Fighting With My Family as the second act began; seeing Saraya fly to America in order to train and trial to become a WWE wrestler. It quickly became a serious drama, and in spite of it’s cliché’s, it is a well-meaning, enjoyable sports movie. The best moments came from the conflict between Saraya and her brother – Zak – who also auditioned to become part of the WWE, but was rejected, and spiralled out of control; phasing out his family and nearly breaking his sister’s neck during a wrestling match, due to his jealousy. This made the movie feel genuine, and didn’t just stretch out the family’s eccentricities into a two-hour long slapstick comedy.

Dwayne Johnson always replied to knock, knock jokes with a sarcastic, scathing fake laugh.

There are times where it can be overly dramatised; when Paige first steps into the WWE ring, to take on the champion AJ Lee, Paige is stood with the microphone; too nervous to speak. She is then attacked by her opponent. However, this didn’t happen in real life – in fact, I just watched this moment on YouTube, and the conversation between Paige and AJ lasted longer than the fight itself. At times, it can be too sensationalised, but who really wants to go to the movie and see a deliberately less-than-tense movie?

As I’ve previously mentioned, Nick Frost was a perfect for his role as the wrestling family’s father; not only did he act the part, but he looked it perfectly. Dwayne Johnson was also charming in it, but – then again – he could play a steaming dog turd underneath my new trainers, and I’d still think he was the goddamn best thing to ever happen to humanity. The real standout – unsurprisingly – is the film’s two main stars; Florence Pugh and Jack Lowden, who play Saraya and Zak respectively. When you think that Florence was in the Dwayne-Johnson-shaped-steaming-pile-of-dog-turd that was The Commuter a year ago, it’s a welcome relief to see her portraying a real life character with such skill.

I don’t know a lot about wrestling. I think if you throw a punch, you get a point. And the first person to score 20 points gets to pick up a Wicked, Wango Card? But what I do know is that Stephen Merchant has created a very interesting, very enjoyable movie with Fighting With My Family – which isn’t to be taken too seriously. It has an amazingly talented cast, and while sometimes the script may distract you from what’s actually going on, as soon as you get back into the story, it hits you like a beautiful, sweet piledriver.

“And if you look from your bedroom window, you’ll be able to see the entire Smurf Village”

(I tried to impress you there, but the guilt was eating me up – I had to Google what a piledriver was. There. I said it.)

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