★★★★★ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki
I'll make this perfectly clear: I have never liked wrestling. It just never fit in with me. I thought it was way too over-the-top & gimmicky.
Fighting with My Family made me like wrestling for once. And that's saying a lot. Based on the 2012 documentary The Wrestlers: Fighting with My Family by Max Fisher, the film follows Saraya Knight, AKA Paige (played by Florence Pugh), a girl in a family of wrestlers: her mother, Julia, AKA Saraya (played by Lena Headey); her father, Ricky (played by Nick Frost); her half-brother, Roy (played by James Burrows), who is in prison; & her older brother, Zak, AKA Zak Zodiac (played by Jack Lowden), have all been wrestlers in Norwich, England. Paige got into wrestling later than the rest of her siblings, as she got into it at the age of 13 in the World Association of Wrestling, founded by Ricky & Saraya.
Since they have trouble making ends meet, Ricky & Saraya constantly call WWE trainer Hutch Morgan (played by Vince Vaughn) to persuade him to sign Paige & Zak, but to no avail. However, they finally get their chance to tryout at the O2 Arena in London. While there, they meet Dwayne Johnson (played by Dwayne Johnson) & get advice, namely to be themselves & not like their idols. They are both hoping they make it; however, not only does Paige make it & Zak doesn't, but Paige is the only one picked by Hutch. While Paige moves on to Florida, Zak returns to Norwich to take care of his family & train young wrestlers.
Paige is upset that Zak is not coming with her, & struggles to make friends in NXT. Meanwhile, Zak struggles with not making it, eventually becoming an alcoholic. They both try to deal with their struggles, but their struggles might be too much.
The cast is fantastic. Florence Pugh is an absolute wonder. With this & her excellent performance in 2017's Lady Macbeth, Pugh is making a name for herself as a very talented young actress. Jack Lowden is also terrific. Vince Vaughn does some of his best work in years. And the rest of the cast, especially Headey, Frost & Johnson, do superb in their supporting roles.
Stephen Merchant's direction is excellent. Merchant is perfectly able to shift between comedy & drama without issue, & is also able to keep a heartwarming tone throughout.
And Stephen Merchant's screenplay is amazing. The plot manages to push through the sports movie tropes, the characters feel incredibly real, & the dialogue is very well-written & often extremely hilarious.
This is one of the biggest surprises of the year, & one of the best sports films in recent memory. It's a hilarious & heartwarming look at a different type of sports family.
Fighting with My Family was seen by me at the MJR Marketplace Digital Cinema 20 in Sterling Heights, MI on Saturday, February 23, 2019. It is in theaters everywhere. Its runtime is 108 minutes, & it is rated PG-13 for crude & sexual material, language throughout, some violence & drug content.