Wrestlers have a long tradition of going from the ring to the big screen, from Hulk Hogan and Roddy Piper to Dave Bautista and John Cena. Then of course there’s The Rock, who produces and appears as himself in Fighting With My Family. The difference here: it’s actor turns wrestler as Florence Pugh plays unlikely WWE star, Paige.
A gothy girl from Norwich becoming one of the top names in a multi-billion dollar brand certainly makes for a ‘you couldn’t make it up’ underdog story, and Lady MacBeth‘s Pugh is a winner in the lead role. Down-to-earth yet with that hint of x-factor, she makes you root for outsider Paige as her doubt gradually turns to drive.
However she’s only part of the story, with that eponymous family being just as important as the fighting. Jack Lowden is also terrific as Paige’s older brother Zak, whose life spirals when he’s rejected by WWE. His jealousy and depression leave him indifferent to his newborn son and spoiling for a scrap in his local pub, while an in-ring confrontation with his sister adds dramatic heft thanks to their authentic sibling closeness. It’s also refreshing to have him in the ‘supporting from the sofa’ role so often given to female characters.
FWMF is great fun too though, with Nick Frost making patriarch Ricky loveably rough around the edges, and writer-director Merchant and Julia Davis hilarious as a jarringly prim and proper couple.
At times it’s like an extended advert for WWE. As pure sporting drama, the stakes are inevitably lowered by the famously faked bouts, but Paige’s personal battle to prove herself – as a person as well as a wrestler – does strike true. The main Florida-set plot isn’t quite meaty enough to hold its own, but in a tag team with events back in Norwich, Fighting With My Family manages to triumph.
CAST: Florence Pugh, Lena Headey, Nick Frost, Jack Lowden, Vince Vaughn, Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson
DIRECTOR: Stephen Merchant
WRITER: Stephen Merchant
SYNOPSIS: Born into a tight-knit wrestling family, Paige and her brother Zak are ecstatic when they get the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to try out for WWE. But when only Paige earns a spot in the competitive training program, she must leave her family and face this new, cut-throat world alone.