More main event than roadshow.
It’s hard to top Darren Aronofsky’s The Wrestler if you want a gritty and hard look at wrestling and its after-effects. And yet there’s quite a bit of heart if you dig deep enough, so much so that wrestling federation WWE is touched by how authentic it is.
On the other end of the spectrum, you have an adaptation of a biopic that’s mostly funded and approved by WWE Studios, which I should remind you it’s owned by the aforementioned wrestling monopoly that got to where it is today by being ruthless and business-savvy.
Said adaptation, title Fighting With My Family (based on the book of the same name), is also full of heart even if it does its damnest to focus on the fluffy side and glamour of wrestling while downplaying its ills. The thing is, it’s not meant to be as harrowing as The Wrestler. It focuses on its core key players who go from rags to riches and celebrates their trials and journey, while also doing a damn good job at making us care.
Anything But Jobbers
This is made possible due to lead actors Florence Pugh and Jack Lowden, who respectively play siblings Saraya “Paige” Knight and Zak “Zodiac” Knight. Based on the life and rising career of WWE female wrestler Paige, the story is about siblings from a wrestling family in England village Norwich who were lucky enough to enter tryouts for the WWE who happen to be around England.
Drama and tensions follow suit as Paige ended up being picked and flown to LA for the WWE NXT circuit, while Zak has to deal with his inferiority complex while also sorting out his own family and wife’s pregnancy. Not only are Florence and Jack perfect as siblings with huge amounts of chemistry with each other, but they also play their parts well. It’s gripping yet fun tosee the unsure-but-fast-learning rising star Paige and cheerful-and-gungho-to-depressed Zak play out their dramatized-but-a-tad-so lives.
The duo capture that feeling of what it is like to have a sibling unintentionally upstage you in something you’re good at, and then trying to cope with it. It’s not an easy thing to do or switch out from like a quick mood swing, which is why I’m glad the film panned out its resolution in the most realistic way possible.
As always, it’s always great to see Nick Frost play the well-meaning and outspoken father while Lena Headey complements him as the level-headed mother. These veteran actors know how to balance between funny and serious moments, whether they’re trying to maintain a facade when meeting other people or being an unorthodox-but-well-meaning family unit to sort out their kids.
As per standard to these biopics funded by their monopoly companies, the film took a lot of liberties from its source material. Like the fact that her NXT female champion reign was downplayed even though it was an important part of her career.
And her eventual Raw debut after Wrestlemania was filled with a crowd that had her back in her NXT days, not a ruthless one portrayed in the film.
Do the changes detract from the main core of the film that highlights the pressure of maintaining your family legacy while also striking it out as your own in an intensive wrestling circuit with funny moments peppered in-between? Not really; I had a blast watching this play out. However, I do wish the film could tone down the presence of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.
We know he’s famous. We know he may have played a part in inspiring wrestlers like Paige to be “the first you”, and even that bit is fabricated and shoved in.
We don’t need constant marketing promo reminders and even an epilogue byline to secure his ego. This may have been a WWE Studios mandate, but it just feels unnecessary and arguably immersion-breaking in an otherwise crowd-pleasing semi-biopic with balanced laughs and life lessons.