My tolerance for all things WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment) is at an all-time low. Sadly, it has never been very high. I rediscovered an interest in wrestling a few years ago along with the Mrs., mostly through NXT, WWE’s far superior sub-brand. Even with NXT, we no longer watch the weekly shows. I consider their bigger shows (called NXT Takeover) must watch television, and never miss our chance to see them.
This is a roundabout way of saying that I expected nothing from the 2019 film, “Fighting with My Family”. After hearing favorable reviews and finally getting around to watching it, I can safely it is surprisingly fantastic.
“Fighting with My Family” is a dramatized telling of the wrestler Paige’s journey from Norwich, England, to Orlando, Florida, where she leaves her wrestling family to join the world stage, first at WWE’s Performance Center under the NXT brand, and later the WWE main stage itself as the youngest ever WWE’s Divas Champion.
Despite having plenty of dramatic moments and an endearing emotional arc, “Fighting with My Family” excels best when it tries to make you laugh. That’s likely due to the film’s writer and director, none other than the humanoid asparagus himself, Stephen Merchant. The addition of Nick Frost as Paige’s dad and an effervescent performance by Lena Headey as Paige’s mom end with more jokes landing than not.
I even enjoyed the film’s lead Florence Pugh as Paige. The writing of Paige as an unsure teenager did not resonate with all I have seen of her wrestling persona or in interviews, but within the film’s direction, Pugh offers up a compelling performance. The wrestling and her confidence in the ring both help sell the film as well.
Jack Lowden also puts in a good performance as Paige’s older brother, Zak. His character is a source of much of the emotional turmoil in the story. After a tryout for WWE, the younger and less interested Paige is chosen over the far more passionate Zak. While Pugh-as-Paige felt a bit flat at times due to how the character was written, Lowden’s Zak has no such restrictions. “Amadeus” is my all-time favorite film and Zak reminds me of Salieri, one of my all-time favorite characters, in how he is an “also ran” who recognizes his dream but is doomed to never live it.
In terms of complaints, I felt “Fighting with My Family” was relatively flawless in its execution. It is funny and endearing. If I had to complain, it would be in how the story deviates from reality, especially toward the end. It makes sense to finish on Paige’s debut in the WWE and winning of the championship but leaving out most of her NXT career leaves the film feeling rushed. Furthermore, despite having some recognizable faces, great writing, and great directing, the film never stops feeling like a made-for-TV movie, perhaps because it plays things almost too safe.
If you are a fan of wrestling, Stephen Merchant, or somewhere in between those two fandoms (what a Venn diagram that could be), then go see it.