Somehow, Florence Pugh, who once played a character who literally attempts to have sex with a lover right in front of her husband simply out of spite, I am not in the least bit surprised that she’s playing an up-and-coming wrestler. How could I be?
The story looks like it’s about a young female wrestling enthusiast is selected to try out and become a pro wrestler herself, even though her brother isn’t, who also dreamed of becoming a wrestler.
Here’s the cast. Starring, we have Florence Pugh (THE COMMUTER , LADY MACBETH , and upcoming films MIDSOMMAR  and LITTLE WOMEN ), Dwayne Johnson (SKYSCRAPER , JUMANJI 2 , MOANA , SAN ANDREAS , and upcoming films HOBBS & SHAW  and JUMANJI 3 ), Jack Lowden (MARY QUEEN , TOMMY’S HONOUR , DENIAL , and the upcoming CORVIDAE ), Nick Frost (TOMB RAIDER , HUNTSMAN 2 , PENELOPE , and upcoming films HORRIBLE HISTORIES: THE MOVIE  and STARDOG AND TURBOCAT ), and Lena Headey (PRIDE/ZOMBIES , and the upcoming THE FLOOD ).
Now for the crew. Writing and directing is Stephen Merchant, known for stuff I’ve either never seen or heard of. Composing the score is Vik Sharma, known for stuff I’ve either never seen or heard of. The cinematographer is Remi Adefarasin, known for WHERE HANDS TOUCH (2018), ME BEFORE YOU (2016), and JOHNNY ENGLISH (2003). Finally, the editor is Nancy Richardson, known for EVERYTHING² (2017).
Overall, this looks like it could be pretty good. I think the Vin Diesel line is a bit too obvious, but I’m looking forward to this one. Thanks to LADY MACBETH, Pugh has shot straight up to my “fresh faces to keep an eye out for” list.
This is my honest opinion of: FIGHTING WITH MY FAMILY
Set in 2009. Eighteen year old Saraya Knight (Florence Pugh) has grown up in a family of wrestlers, her father Ricky “Rowdy” (Nick Frost), mother Julia “Sweet Saraya” (Lena Headey), and older brother Zak “Zodiac” (Jack Lowden). They live in Norwich, England where they hold local wrestling matches and make money off of it. However, each and every one of them aspires to something bigger: getting both Saraya and Zak into the WWE. After submitting footage of their talents, they’re given that very chance to go in for qualifying. Both give it their all, but the WWE coach, Hutch (Vince Vaughn), chooses only one candidate for WWE training: Saraya. Despite her objections in going to America without Zak, both Hutch and Zak pressure her into accepting, to which she does. But despite the opportunity given to her, the training proves to be much more intense than she anticipated, it’s been difficult for her to make friends, her parents have been getting way too excited in her success, and Zak grows increasingly jealous and bitter about him not being selected.
Despite this being the final movie I saw for the new releases of the week, I couldn’t wait to get started on my review for this one. I think we’ve hit the first legitimately great film of the year.
The primary reason I say this is because it’s not really a film about wrestling. That’s certainly a huge theme, to be sure. More than anything, the title gives it away. It’s about Saraya Knight and her family. And even though the theme of “the pressures of success” has been done before, it’s far better explored here than most. On the one hand, being a professional wrestler is something that Saraya wanted, she saw herself being so with her brother. It’s easy to see why. They’ve been wrestling together since they were kids and were strongly encouraged by their parents. It’s been a collective dream for them all. But when it’s only Saraya that achieves that dream, you see the weight put on her shoulders. Her brother’s disappointment and jealousy, never returning her phone calls, and on the opposite side of the spectrum, her parents are going overboard with their excitement for her, further adding to the pressure, especially considering how physically demanding the training proves to be. And the spotlight isn’t just on Saraya either. Zak gets plenty of screen time as well as he struggles and spirals with his disappointment and envy and how that affects his new family.
This movie has it all. It has great, emotional and engaging drama that makes you feel for everyone’s struggles and uncertainties. I even got choked up a couple times. And they were well earned emotional reactions from me. We get to know these characters really well, making it just as personal for us as it was for them at this time. But it ain’t just the drama that shines, it’s the comedy as well. When this movie wants you to laugh, you’re going to laugh. Whether it’s because of a good one liner, like, “You suck!” “That’s okay, you swallow.” Or if it’s kind of sarcastic, or even cute. Mostly, that comes from Frost and Headey, who are an adorable pairing that feels freakishly real. Fantastic performances out of them, to be sure.
But as much as I want to gush over everyone, there’s one particular actor that I want to gush about, and that’s Vaughn. That’s a statement that I never thought I’d say. In the past, I wasn’t his biggest fan. I thought he was a one-trick pony that really only worked in WEDDING CRASHERS, but I think he’s quietly picked himself up in recent years, what with hits like HACKSAW RIDGE and the popularity of BRAWL IN CELL BLOCK 99, I’m more than excited to see him once again on the big screen, and by God is he great in this. Hutch is definitely the archetype of “tough but fair,” but as tough as he is, he’s given quite a bit of depth. He keeps denying Zak his time in the sun, but seems like he legitimately feels bad for him, and for good reason. He sees himself in Zak, as Hutch used to be a wrestler himself who kept seeking fame, but never achieved it, and sees Zak as going down the same road, and only Saraya has any real hope of seeing success. There’s a bunch of great moments and he gets more than his fair share of them.
Call me a hater, but I’m so glad that Johnson doesn’t have a huge role in this movie. Not a fan of the dude on an indirect personal level, so I was delighted to see that he’s only in two scenes. This movie had enough faith to let the movie focus on Saraya and her personal story without the need to use Johnson as a crutch. Not that the marketing has followed suit. Even the poster has him stapled on it. Again, only in two scenes. Everyone else on that poster is the focus of the story. Dumb, but I guess when you’re a producer for the flick, you can get away with stuff like that. The movie is what’s important, not the marketing. Er, as far as my philosophy is concerned.
There’s certainly a few moments where I wanted to dislike this movie. Like when Maddison (Ellie Gonsalves), Kirsten (Aqueela Zoll), and Jeri-Lynn (Kim Matula) have Saraya read a newspaper article because they love her accent. I wanted to be mad at how dumb this was, but… nope, I’ve legit seen this happen. I went to school with an English guy and this girl literally made such a big deal that she did that thing. “Say something else!” It’s like, holy shit, bitch, have you never seen a movie with British actors? NOTTING HILL, LOVE ACTUALLY, SERENDIPITY, HOT FUZZ, SHAUN OF THE DEAD, there’s thousands. It’s dumb, but it’s a legit dumb that exists.
Although, I do have to ask, why did Frost sport a beard? It didn’t look like the real Ricky Knight sported one. He certainly sported the mini mohawk, but not the beard. Headey’s look as Julia was pitch perfect, as were both Pugh and Lowden in their roles, but why not… Frost? Not a real negative, just a bit of a question mark.
I love this movie. It’s got everything. Heart, drama, comedy, and a protagonist that you love to watch and see go through her trials and tribulations. I’m certainly curious to know how the real woman feels about her movie, and if everything depicted was more or less accurate to what she really experienced. As is, I highly recommend this movie to anyone and everyone. I hope I get to see it again in theaters and for it to come out in a theater closer to where I live. I love Century City, but that’s not a close drive from Calabasas. Anyway, great film, wouldn’t even mind owning it on Blu-Ray.
My honest rating for FIGHTING WITH MY FAMILY: 5/5
This week’s reviews:
Next week’s reviews:
- HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON: THE HIDDEN WORLD
- RUBEN BRANDT, COLLECTOR