There is something inherently enjoyable about seeing the underdog rise to the top of whatever industry serves as the fixation of their fantasies. This is why, despite inconsistent quality, people love watching Rocky movies so much. There is also a sense of comfort in how predictable the story is; with writers and directors throwing in established sports movie tropes, such as training montages. Universal’s newest motion picture, Fighting with My Family, follows the usual formula of the feel-good sports film, but also has a surprising amount of emotional depth in its narrative.
Fighting with My Family is a comedic biographical film about WWE wrestler Saraya “Paige” Bevis. Splitting its focus between Los Angeles and Bevis’ hometown of Norwich in England, the film shows the progression of one young woman into a wrestling champion.
The trailers for this movie doubled down on the humor and the casts’ comedic abilities. It was a smart way to market the film because Fighting with My Family is laugh out loud funny. However, upon watching the movie one realizes all the dramatic elements that were largely hidden by the film’s marketing – and with good reason.
Fighting with My Family is filled with jokes and clever one liners, but the film is largely driven by the protagonists’ insecurities as they enter worlds unfamiliar to them. The theme of self-acceptance is prevalent throughout the film, and while not always handled subtlety, leaves a strong moral message after the credit’s role.
Saraya’s struggle with her insecurities and anxiety is handled very realistically and her path to self-acceptance never falls into cliché, though it does come close at times. This is largely due to Florence Pugh’s excellent performance. The actress’ work really goes a long way in making the character feel well-rounded.
Saraya’s brother Zack has his own insecurities which differ from his sister’s, but his character arc in the film compliments Saraya’s own experiences. Jack Lowden does an excellent job in taking viewers into the scarier parts of the entertainment world and young adulthood with a nuanced performance.
What gets the two Bevis siblings through this rough chapter in their lives is family. The Bevis family is central to Saraya’s and Zack’s journey in Fighting with My Family. They provide support and a sense of belonging as their daughter works to be the newest WWE star. The film’s sense of family is not merely limited to biology and parentage, but surrogate families forged through the bonds of friendship as well. Fighting with My Family says that to get any form of success in life, people need the support of those closest to them.
I have already written about how the film was marketed mainly as a comedy, but there was one other aspect of Fighting with My Family’s promotion that caught my attention. The advertising went heavy on the inclusion of Dwayne Johnson, which made me wonder what kind of role he would play in the film. Ultimately, the wrestler turned actor gets two short scenes, one of which calls a little too much attention to Johnson’s presence. His exclusion would not have hurt the film as a whole because Saraya’s others relationships are far more significant to the story than Johnson’s presence. Despite feeling like something thrown in after the script was written, both scenes are thematically appropriate, with the second being my favorite moment in the Rock’s entire acting career.
The editing and cinematography are fine; nothing particularly noteworthy. However, Merchant knows how long to let the camera linger in each scene, especially in the more dramatic parts of the film. It gets the maximum impact from the performance and script without making the ending of each scene feel unnecessarily drawn out.
Fighting with My Family could have been terrible, but a lot of effort was put into the final product. The performances, dialogue, and themes keep the film from feeling too formulaic. I do not know where it will stand ten years from now, but right now Fighting with My Family is a highly entertaining movie that imparts a strong and relevant message on its audience.