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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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The BattalionMay 4, 2024

‘Fighting with My Family’ is delightful yet predictable

Fighting+with+My+Family+released+in+theaters+Feb.+14%2C+2019.
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Fighting with My Family released in theaters Feb. 14, 2019.

Stephen Merchant’s “Fighting with My Family” is a biographical sports comedy based on the rise of World Wrestling Entertainment superstar Paige. The film is a lighthearted attempt to bridge the genre gap between sports films and family dramedy, and Merchant is mostly successful in creating a believable world inside of the scripted, fixed world of professional wrestling.
The film follows Saraya “Paige” Bevis’ life from her childhood fights with her brother Zak “Zodiac” Bevis to her call up to the main WWE stage. Throughout her journey, she wrestles with numerous forgettable characters, but also with herself as she struggles to know who she is in the world of professional wrestling. Outside of the ring, Merchant shakes off the stage names and the scripted choreography and finds some genuine moments between the characters.
Similar to the world of professional wrestling, sports films typically follow the same genre pattern and feel equally fixed and predictable. The narrative structure of this film is nothing new, Merchant’s directorial style is nothing exceptional and the film retains its familiarity throughout the runtime. Yet, in this familiarity Merchant taps into a tone that simply cannot be written off. The interactions of the Bevis family are thoroughly enjoyable, despite the obvious Hollywood dramatism.
These genuine aspects of the film are spearheaded by Nick Frost and Lena Headey. Frost, who gained international recognition for his work in Edgar Wright’s trilogy “Three Flavours Cornetto”, anchors the comedic aspect of the film and remains hilarious in each of his scenes. His role as Paige’s father, Patrick “Rowdy Ricky Knight” Bevis, charms despite the character’s obvious, exaggerated dialogue. Lena Headey, who plays the role of Julia “Sweet Saraya” Bevis, is an excellent counterpart to Frost’s comedic aspects. Headey’s screen presence provides one of the key aspects that balances the film between its comedy and its biographical exploration of the Bevis family.
Despite the big names such as Frost and Headey in the film, rising star Florence Pugh steals the show. Her role as Paige could not be more different than her previous work as Katherine Lester in “Lady Macbeth” or Elizabeth de Burgh in “Outlaw King,” but she never once seems out of place on the screen. Her work in this film shows her range as an actress and proves that despite her age, she is destined for a long and successful career on the screen.
Unfortunately, the authenticity of the actors of the film is countered by the obvious narrative influence of the WWE and the extended cameos of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. An executive producer of the film, Johnson inserts himself into the story in instances that halt the wholesome tone. These instances, though they may have some validity, feel out of place and forced. Despite Johnson’s immensely successful acting and producing career, his involvement in this film feels more scripted than the WWE. Paired with Johnson’s disappointing influence, Vince Vaughn’s only purpose in the film is to recite rejected dialogue from “DodgeBall: A True Underdog Story.”
“Fighting with My Family” hits all the necessary genre points, but in between these points, each actor finds their respective sincerity within their roles. The film can’t quite shake off its corporate influence to remain true throughout, but the big-screen treatment of the Bevis family makes for an enjoyable experience.

Cole Fowler is an English junior and columnist for The Battalion.

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