Fighting with My Family

February 28, 2019

Review, Theatrical, This Week 1 Comment

If you want a good laugh, you’ll find it here. If you want some Rocky-style physical exertion, you’ll get your fill from this. Even if you’re not all that interested in pro wrestling, the serious talent at all corners of this production has a solid chance of winning you over anyway.
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Fighting with My Family

Cain Noble-Davies
Year: 2019
Rating: M
Director: Stephen Merchant
Cast:

Florence Pugh, Nick Frost, Lena Headey, Jack Lowden, Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson

Distributor: Universal
Released: March 21, 2019
Running Time: 109 minutes
Worth: $17.50

FilmInk rates movies out of $20 — the score indicates the amount we believe a ticket to the movie to be worth

If you want a good laugh, you’ll find it here. If you want some Rocky-style physical exertion, you’ll get your fill from this. Even if you’re not all that interested in pro wrestling, the serious talent at all corners of this production has a solid chance of winning you over anyway.

If you want a good laugh, you’ll find it here. If you want some Rocky-style physical exertion, you’ll get your fill from this. Even if you’re not all that interested in pro wrestling, the serious talent at all corners of this production has a solid chance of winning you over anyway.

After nearly two decades worth of collaborations with polarising British comedian Ricky Gervais, Stephen Merchant is back in the director’s chair for his first solo feature-length outing. While a film about ‘soap opera in spandex’, made by one of the lankiest comedians on Earth, seems a bit off, Fighting With My Family finds Merchant in his usual wheelhouse of playing spectator to a parade of overblown ego. Only this time around, we’re also given people worth caring about.

Based on the documentary The Wrestlers: Fighting with My Family, this film plays out knowing that there is an entirely factual recounting already out there about the WWE champion, Paige. As such, while it dips and turns with historical accuracy in places (like pretty much all biopics), it nails the two things that the format shares with wrestling itself: being able to sell the artificial drama and making the audience keep cheering. And on both counts, this film passes with flying colours.

Florence Pugh’s (Lady Macbeth, The Little Drummer Girl series) turn as the pale-faced outsider from Norwich finds her in prime form, acting as the nucleus for what turns out to be a pitch-perfect cast, from Nick Frost as the burly father to Jack Lowden as the vexed and jealous brother. Even Vince Vaughn, who isn’t exactly in his prime these days, does marvellously with his hilariously dry delivery.

From the bedrock of the script, and truly fantastic visuals courtesy of DOP Remi Adefarasin (Elizabeth, Me Before You), audiences are given an incredibly potent offering that hits them right where it hurts, whether it’s aiming for the funnybone or square at the gut. It’s almost unfair how good this film turns out, as it really gives the feeling that Merchant has been held back all this time, with this serving as a visceral release of creative energy.

And from that release, we get one of the best hit-to-miss ratios for comedy of any film in the last several months, a fixation on backstage drama that unearths surprisingly complex characters, and a devotion to the sport of wrestling that feels like it comes from a genuine place. It bypasses a lot of the entry-level gripes (“It’s fake”, etc.) and highlights the raw talent and personality needed to thrive within it.

For the first WWE Studios production, it serves a nice balance between endearing self-promotion and well-executed underdog sports drama.

If you want a good laugh, you’ll find it here. If you want some Rocky-style physical exertion, you’ll get your fill from this. Even if you’re not all that interested in pro wrestling, the serious talent at all corners of this production has a solid chance of winning you over anyway. And while it gives Pugh some much-needed attention, it also shows that Stephen Merchant is a talent worth keeping around, even without his partner-in-cringe.

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