Wrestling With Confidence

Florence Pugh steps into the ring as WWE star in comic biopic

Film Review | by Jorge Ignacio Castillo0

Fighting with My Family
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Considering their recent output, one could argue the real heart of The Office UK wasn’t Ricky Gervais, but director/co-writer Steven Merchant.

The closest either has come to the awkward spirit of the sitcom is Merchant with Hello Ladies. Gervais’ work of late has been noticeably mean-spirited, particularly his standup show Humanity. It’s one thing to mock Mel Gibson, and quite another to tap into transphobia for laughs.

Merchant further distinguishes himself with Fighting with My Family, a sweet and uplifting comic biopic built on relatable pathos. Doesn’t hurt to have the fantastic Florence Pugh (Lady Macbeth) at the film’s centre, an actress on the verge of becoming a household name.

Pugh is Saraya “Paige” Knight, the youngest offspring of Ricky and Julia Knight (Nick Frost and Lena Headey), two semi-retired, semi-professional wrestlers. The Knights live and breathe wrestling, so when the WWE comes to London to host tryouts both their kids go for it.

Paige makes it to the next stage in Miami, but her brother Zak (Jack Lowden, who looks like a young Simon Pegg) doesn’t have what it takes — “it” being the intangibles that make you a star in the ring. Stuck in his small town for the foreseeable future, Zak becomes bitter and detached. Meanwhile, in Florida, Paige is not doing great either, as her insecurities get the better of her. The siblings are oblivious to the reality their strength comes from each other’s support.

For two thirds of Fighting with My Family, Merchant successfully balances laughs, setbacks and a plot that’s functional, while not original. Then, he botches the resolution. There isn’t really a build up to the final match, you just know it’s coming. Not only that, the movie ties itself into all kinds of knots to put Dwayne Johnson on screen. Granted, The Rock is a draw. But an earlier cameo is more than enough.

Still, this is one of those movies where the journey is more important than the destination. The thoroughly likeable cast and pleasantly damaged family dynamics get you through. And you don’t even have to like wrestling.