As someone who grew up with a family that adored wrestling, I had a very good time learning about Paige and the down to Earth working classic family she grew up in. “Fighting With My Family” is the adaptation of the documentary that tells the tale of Paige and how she grew up working with her parents, both of whom built their own home grown wrestling federation. Paige, the most popular of her brood, eventually rose to become a WWE star, allowing for a great tale of the working class rising to fame. With some liberties taken Stephen Merchant’s “Fighting With My Family” is almost as good that also works as a tribute to the power of family.
Saraya grew up in a family that loved Wrestling and she spends most of her days with her big brother Zak, performing in their family based wrestling federation. When they get a call from the WWE to try out, she and her brother are put through the wringer. When only Saraya makes it, she has to now figure out how to make her way in to the WWE without her brother, while also coming to terms with her own insecurities. Meanwhile, Zak is back at their home country struggling with his personal failure and inherent envy toward his sister as he begins building a family of his own.
“Fighting with My Family” takes some interesting liberties with the story of Paige, but through and through it’s a very good love letter to family and the art of wrestling. Star Florence Pugh carries the film beautifully, portraying Saraya as a blossoming performer whose self consciousness boils to the surface once her brother is rejected from the WWE. Merchant noticeably changes the tone once Saraya is on her own journey, showing how much she fought for her role on the WWE, and the conflicting ideas about femininity and the role of women in sports. Saraya is often one who serves as her worst enemy, and when pitted against other women, Merchant invokes interesting conflict about her own idea about women and her perceptions of beauty and conventionality.
Although primarily a drama, Stephen Merchant takes some classic comedic turns here and there, dabbling in the eccentricities of Paige’s family, and how devoted to the art of performing they all are. Nick Frost and Lena Headey tend to steal so many scenes as Paige’s devoted parents Ricky and Julia, both of whom love wrestling almost as much as their children. While their roles could have easily been reduced to glorified walk on roles, Frost and Headey transform them in to entertaining often very funny sports fans that go above and beyond to ensure the success of their children. There are also fantastic turns by Jack Lowden, and Vince Vaughn, the latter of whom is hilarious in his sincerity as Saraya’s mentor.
While my preference remains with the original documentary, director Stephen Merchant’s take on “Fighting with My Family” is a great underdog tale filled with laughs, heart, and a great emphasis on the strength of family.