So the WWE is making movies about itself now? “Fighting with my Family” could either be the start of a new get-rich-quick scheme by the infamous Vince McMahon, or it could just be a nice little movie about one young woman’s kooky family and her quest for superstardom.
It’s mostly the latter, but time will tell.
“Fighting with my Family” is the relatively true-to-life story of professional wrestler Paige, a young British girl who grew up in a boisterous family of wrestlers. From a young age, both Paige and her brother dreamed of Wrestlemania and performed in the family’s amateur wrestling company.
When the WWE talent scouts come calling, it’s Paige who makes the cut, while her brother has to return to their working class roots, his dreams shattered. But does Paige have what it takes to seize that brass ring all on her own?
As the story of Paige — real name Saraya Knight — and her family, the movie is quite entertaining. Nick Frost and Lena Headey play the adorably rough-around-the-edges father and mother, and seeing Paige rise from the ranks of their amateur circuit to the big times is pretty fun. Movies about ordinary people working hard to achieve their dreams usual are. And the film does a lot with the WWE training sequences. Paige and her fellow recruits don’t just need to learn how to pretend fight, they also need to learn how to perform for a large crowd.
There’s fun in seeing how the sausage is made, so to speak. Though the film can never shake the odd feeling that this is all one big WWE commercial, since the company had a hand in producing the the whole thing. And Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson pops in for a couple of on-the-nose cameos to make it more obvious. Then the movie loses its way in the end.
Not to give too much away, but “Fighting with my Family” never pretends wrestling is real until the very end, which is the exact wrong time. Most of the film is a behind-the-scenes look into how real people become WWE superstars. And if you’re not 12-years-old, you know that professional wrestling is fixed, and the movie embraces this fact.
Until the climactic match, when, without warning or signal, the film wants to pretend that the fight is real. This does a disservice to the movie because it robs the moment of everything that surely must have actually happened behind-the-scenes. This isn’t a “Rocky” movie, where Balboa’s victory isn’t assured. This is professional wrestling.
“Fighting with my Family” isn’t about whether Paige can win a wrestling match. It’s about whether or not Paige can be a WWE superstar. Those are two very different things, and the end of the movie cares more about the first one. It’s the wrong call.
Part of the problem is lead actor Florence Pugh as Paige. She’s great in the dramatic scenes and makes for a compelling star, but she lacks the in-ring presence of a real professional wrestler. WWE wrestlers might as well be cartoon characters for how charismatic and larger-than-life they are.
Perhaps the real Paige is like that, but Pugh is too meek. It’s especially noticeable when she’s acting alongside the real wrestlers. It’s ironic, considering a major story point of the film is that Paige possesses that necessary spark to become a real superstar.
Ending aside, “Fighting with my Family” is still an enjoyable film with a positive message. The ensemble cast is a lot of fun, and the rags to riches story has enough heart to be worthwhile.