We may only be two months into 2019, but it looks like this is going to be the year of good/great movies that are hidden under the disguise of really bad trailers. First Alita: Battle Angel and now Fighting with My Family? What’s next? Is there any way UglyDolls could possibly turn out to be good despite those god-awful trailers that make me want to jump off a building?
Who are we kidding, of course UglyDolls isn’t going to be good.
Fighting with My Family, however, is something that’s really quite special. It comes from Stephen Merchant — yes, the very same Stephen Merchant who starred in movies like Logan, Hot Fuzz and a handful of others.
Turns out that Merchant is not only a gifted actor and
Based on a true story, Fighting with My Family follows Saraya (Florence Pugh) and Zak Bevis (Jack Lowden) in their quest to be accepted into the WWE and become the next greatest professional wrestlers that the world has ever seen.
It’s a dream that both of them have had since they were little, and one that was certainly encouraged by their parents, Patrick (Nick Frost) and Julia Bevis (Lena Headey), as they practically started their own wrestling division in England just so their entire family could fight together in the ring.
Yes, it’s a little strange, but it’s something they’re all passionate about and, anyways, they really don’t care what anyone thinks of them in the first place.
The entire family is gathered around the dinner table when the phone call from Hutch Morgan (Vince Vaughn), a professional wrestling recruiter, comes in. He’s seen a video of the two of them fighting one another in the ring and wants them to come audition for an open spot at WWE.
Given that Saraya and Zak have been training together for as long as they can remember, they naturally just assume they’re both going to be both be accepted into the program.
As it turns out, though, Saraya is the only one who makes it in.
That creates difficulties for both of them. Before Saraya is actually a part of WWE, she has to survive another ruthless tryout in the NXT Women’s Champion, and given that Zak didn’t make it and that the competition is held in Florida, she now has to go through it alone.
Zak, however, is dealing with his own problems as he has to watch his sister live out his dream while he’s stuck making minimum wage back in England.
It might sound like those are two completely separate stories — and, to some degree, they are — but the beauty of Fighting with My Family is how well those character arcs compliment one another.
It works because Merchant takes his time building up the characters and their relationships with one another, so that when things start going down during the second half of the movie, we’re rooting for Saraya and Zak to succeed or get their life together just as much as they are.
That’s not to say the slow or anything, but rather just means that script has a good grasp on what to focus on here. While there might be elements of Rocky, GLOW or other sports underdog stories scattered in here, Merchant digs deeper and finds a brand new angle to approach this one with.
Luckily, he’s able to do that with a near level of expertise, too.
Whenever you think the movie is headed in one direction, it goes somewhere else. Whenever you think they’re going to hit some cliché right on the head, they pull the rug right out from under you and do something wildly different. For a trailer that sold Fighting with My Family as a predictable, melodramatic and overly sappy kind of ride, the film itself is really anything but. By the time it’s over, I was nearly on my feet cheering alongside with the whole Bevis family, happy to see them overcome their obstacles and grow so much.
Part of that success not only is because of Merchant, but also because of the cast themselves, too.
Mark my words, this is about to be a career-defining performance for Florence Pugh. She’s appeared in a few films prior to this — Outlaw King, Lady Macbeth and that Liam Neeson on a train movie, The Commuter — but, to be honest, she’s never really made any kind of impression in those role. Here, she’s on a whole new level and is able to do so much with this character, to the point where I’d predict we’re about to see her pop-up in a whole lot more movies in the near future.
Jack Lowden is also really good here, even if it’s not as showy of a performance (which is really kind of the point of the movie, in some sense). That gets at some of the other brilliance in Fighting with My Family, too, as this movie doesn’t waste a single one of it’s supporting characters. Whether it’s Nick Frost and Lena Headey (both of whom are hilarious and brilliant and should be cast in more things together), Vince Vaughn with the subtly hidden backstory or even the other girls whom Saraya is wrestling against, everyone is fighting their own kind of battle and the film gives them all their time to shine.
Dwayne Johnson also appears here as himself — at least, to some degree. From the trailers, I got the impression that he wasn’t going to be in it too much, which is all too true as he gets maybe five minutes of screen-time. That being said, whenever he is on the screen, it’s a lot of fun is a self-referential kind of way. Sure, that could be annoying if literally any other actor tried to pull it off, but Johnson is able to poke fun at himself in just the right way which makes it work for this movie.
Truly, I didn’t expect a lot from Fighting with My Family when walking into the theater. I’d heard good buzz about the movie, sure, but I wasn’t convinced. It didn’t take me long when walking out of the theater, though, to decide that this is my favorite film of 2019 thus far (probably won’t last, but who knows?). It’s funny, it’s inspiring and it’s really well thought-out to the point where I’m going to say this is the most original sports movie I’ve seen since 2011’s Warrior (another great one that I highly recommend).
Watch the trailer for Fighting with My Family here and then let us know, in the comments below, what you thought of the film!
'Fighting with My Family' - Didn't see that one coming [REVIEW]9