Fighting with My Family (2019)
Directed by: Stephen Merchant
Written by: Stephen Merchant
Starring: Florence Pugh, Lena Headey, Nick Frost, Jack Lowden, Vince Vaughn & Dwayne Johnson
CONTAINS SLIGHT SPOILERS!
With writing and directing duties from Stephen Merchant, you will probably have a good idea exactly how this screenplay is going to go. The story of a wrestling mad family from Norwich, that hit the big time when their daughter is picked up by the WWE, is portrayed as heartwarming, motivational and triumphant. The scripts hits every beat that you can imagine for a film of this type. We have the rise of an under-dog, the second act struggle against adversity, and an uplifting final act with everything coming together at the end, in a triumph of spirit, overcoming the struggles and hardships from the previous two acts.
Merchant seems to know exactly what he’s doing here, yet the script manages to fit every trope you can imagine into it’s 108 minutes. Think of any film you have seen that follows a similar narrative, and you will be able to plot the whole crowd pleasing production from start to finish, and essentially it’s this predictive format that irritated me most while watching. Actually, what irritated me most was the three lads that brought a family bag of crisps into the cinema with them, and ate them quite thoughtlessly throughout the first hour, I mean, it’s 2019, who does this?
So we get the introductions to the family, and there’s a lot to like here in the first half hour. Nick Frost and Lena Heady are safe hands for the mum and dad roles, and brother and sister Saraya and Zak are played by Florence Pugh and Jack Lowden. It has to be said that Jack Lowden seems to be channeling a young Simon Pegg here, possibly under the influence of co star Nick Frost, but honestly, there’s a strange and uncanny resemblance to him. There’s a couple of cameos from Dwayne Johnson, playing himself, or The Rock, that add a certain Hollywood-ness to what at first seems like a classic British kitchen sink comedy, and Vince Vaughn also lends an A-List feel to the production.
So as Saraya, wrestling name Paige, heads off for wrestling boot camp, she encounters hostility from the other girls, a feeling of guilt for leaving her brother behind as he didn’t make the wrestling grade, and the loneliness of being alone and far from home. Coach Vince Vaughn also adds to her pressures, feeling Paige isn’t quite up to the job, and with the sub plots back home taking shape, there’s plenty of room for some heartfelt scenes, designed to have us rooting for the whole gang and hoping everything turns out ok.
As a whole, and on the surface, this is almost a paint by numbers movie, that succeeds because it does exactly what it sets out to do. It gives us an underdog story, with an endearing cast and enough ups and downs to have the audience in the right frame of mind for each scene. Merchant plays us like a piano, and we laugh when we are meant to, and we cry on command too. The down to earth nature of the cast will probably endear a UK audience more than an American one, but there’s enough familiar territory covered to appeal to everyone.
On the whole, this is a nice night out, but after watching it, and knowing I may review it, I can’t help but feel that there was a formula at work here that left very little for the viewer to do, except sit back and watch it play out. I know it was based on a true story, but a little research will show that Paige’s story continued on after the events of the film finished , and sadly I feel there was more of film in what wasn’t covered than what was. However, for a feel good uplifting tale, this is one to watch, and just like the real WWE, don’t examine it too closely, and you will have a great time.