“Why do you want to wrestle?” World Wrestling Entertainment coach Jake Roberts (Vince Vaughn) asks WWE wannabe, Saraya Knight (Florence Pugh). “To escape the real world,” she says. “When I wrestle, the world disappears and I feel like I’ve found somewhere I belong.” She comes from an English wrestling family. Her father, Nick, was a wrestler. Her brother, Zak, wants to be one. That’s the setup for “Fighting with My Family,” a biopic comedy about “Paige” (her WWE name) and her professional career.
Can diminutive Paige defeat her bigger and stronger opponents? Does she overcome her shyness and learn to talk trash in the WWE ring? Will you be entertained by “FWMF,” even if — like me — you’re not a wrestling fan? I was.
Florence Pugh does a star turn as 18-year-old Saraya “Paige” Knight who, with her extroverted brother Zak — nicely played by Jack Lowden — dreams of being a wrestling star. When she is accepted for WWE training, and he isn’t (not a spoiler), the question is: Can she convince her no-holds-barred coach, Jake “Hitch” Roberts, played by Vince Vaughn, that she’s got the two things a WWE star needs — athletic skills and “spark”? Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, playing himself, explains: “Spark is the magic dust; it’s why fans shout your name and buy 6-inch replicas of you.” Nick Frost is funny as “Rowdy” Nicky Knight, Paige and Zak’s father. A wrestler and ex-convict (“Mainly violence,” he says, “armed robbery”), he dotes on his daughter. Lena Hedley is no-nonsense mom, Julia “Sweet Saraya” Knight.
Others in the cast include Thea Trinidad, Leah Harvey and Ellie Gonsalves as April, Hannah and Maddison, three blonde WWE trainees who, like Paige, dream of stardom. Aqueela Zoll is Kirsten, Zak’s middle-class girlfriend.
“Fighting with My Family” is a comedy/drama, based on a true story. Written and directed by Stephen Merchant, it’s heart-warming and (sometimes) laugh-out-loud funny, as we follow Paige’s career with WWE. Despite doubts about herself — too small, too shy — Paige perseveres with strong support from her loving family. “You are a spark in our lives,” says dad, “no matter what you do with yours.” And, as he tells Dwayne Johnson, “She’s not going to let you down, Mr. Rock!”
Rated PG-13 for crude sexual material, language, violence and drugs, “Fighting with My Family” runs 108 minutes. It’s for adults and older teens. Here’s a takeaway from me — a WWE wrestling know-nothing: “WWE is not fake, it’s fixed — soap opera in spandex.”
“Fighting with My Family,”
A true-life sport biography;
While wrestling flicks are not for me,
This one sure was fun to see.