“Fighting With Your Family” – Not Your Typical Sports Movie

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“Fighting With Your Family” – Not Your Typical Sports Movie

Photo Courtesy of Metro-Goldwyn Mayer

Photo Courtesy of Metro-Goldwyn Mayer

Photo Courtesy of Metro-Goldwyn Mayer

Photo Courtesy of Metro-Goldwyn Mayer

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What is Dwayne Johnson cooking up in “Fighting with My Family”? Probably his strongest entry as a producer to date. The film is based on the true story of Saraya-Jade Bevis, or “Paige,” played by rising-star Florence Pugh, and her journey to become the youngest WWE Divas Champion ever.

        Paige comes from a wrestling-crazed, working-class family in the sleepy yet gritty town of Norwich, England. Her ex-con father “Rowdy Ricky Knight” Bevis, played by the always-hilarious Nick Frost, and mother Julia “Sweet Saraya” Hamer-Bevis, played by Lena Headey of “Game of Thrones,” were both professional wrestlers who own the very small promotion company World Association of Wrestling (WAW). She and her brother Zak “Zodiac” Bevis (Jack Lowden) not only help with the training of the wrestling school, but are the main act in WAW events until they get a shot at making the WWE. Her half-brother Roy Bevis is in prison for most of the film.

        Throughout “Fighting with My Family,” Paige feels conflicted about exactly why she wants to wrestle. This uncertainty causes problems in the family after she moves onto NXT, WWE’s minor league, and Zak, who is a much more zealous wrestler, does not.

        Thousands of miles from home and feeling guilty for taking her brother’s chance, Paige begins to doubt herself, and her commitment lags in the grueling NXT development program. Her coach, Hutch (Vince Vaughn), challenges her to either find her own will and character or go home and suggests it would be better if she did the latter.

        When Paige returns home for Christmas, her brother is in bad shape and greatly resents her. After a botched ring-reunion and later bar fight, the two settle into their respective roles: Paige the WWE star on television and Zak the teacher and mentor to the students at WAW.

        If there is one fault with the film, it is that Paige’s change of heart about wrestling is not very explicit. The clearest answer she gives is to her coach Hutch at the tryout, saying that wrestling has just been what she has always done and—like for the fans—it acts as an escape. However, it does not really seem as if the eccentricities and the challenges her family faces really seem to trouble her during the film.

        Her family’s pride and the WAW’s successes after Paige’s rise suggest that she eventually comes to see herself as fighting for her family, like many of the other hopeful wrestlers in NXT’s development program looking to make the WWE. Nevertheless, the film lacks a standout “Aha!” moment for Paige, but this could also be seen as one of the movie’s strengths, as it evades some typical clichés of sports movies.

        Excluding this small potential fault, “Fighting with My Family” is very enjoyable from start to finish because of the amusing script and skillful direction of Stephen Merchant. Far too many films reveal all or most of their comedic moments in the trailer. But “Fighting with My Family” avoids this common pitfall and reveals that many of the best moments from trailers and VT spots are only glimpses into the full scenes. Johnson and Frost are the brightest comedic performances in the film, but peculiarities of the Knight family and Paige’s British-alternative streak provide ample laughs as well.

        The film is based on a true story, and viewers wanting to know more about the real story should watch the 2012 documentary, “The Wrestlers: Fighting with my Family.” Made two years before Paige’s championship, it gives a real taste of the gritty world of semi-professional wrestling and serves as the basis for Johnson’s film.

        “Fighting with My Family” has taken some heat from critics and wrestling fans alike, who argue that the film steers too clear of some of the controversies surrounding Paige and that the movie acts as a mere 108-minute commercial for the WWE, which helped produce the film.

        Despite these issues, the story presented does feel quite genuine. Whether or not the film does justice to Paige’s real story, it is an entertaining glimpse into the nerve and gall required to make it in the wrestling industry, even if it is a biased one.