"Fighting with My Family" centers on a working-class family of World Wrestling Entertainment fanatics who run an amateur league and wrestling gym in England. Siblings Zak (Jack Lowden) and Saraya (Florence Pugh) have dreams of the WWE, and their parents (Nick Frost and Lena Headey) push them for reasons both good and selfish. When they both get a tryout to join the WWE's NXT training program in Miami, it's the opportunity of a lifetime.
Lining up smart British talent (and comedic sensibility) alongside supporting actors like Vince Vaughn and Dwayne Johnson (as himself) creates a film in the mold of traditional Hollywood fare, but with more of an indie flavor. Fans of the latter will be more surprised by this, but there's common ground to be found in this movie between audiences who would choose different films at a movie theater 49 times out of 50.
Narratively, Merchant tells a story that ping-pongs between formula and freshness. The freshness comes largely from the humor it keeps about it and the talent on screen. Frost and Headey are two tremendous talents operating in what are usually just stock parent roles in these types of films. They are also not written to just be any parents, but from the getgo, they give the story a bit of an edge as it unfolds true to form. As for Pugh, the film is lucky to have her before she becomes a major commodity. She embodies the rather straightforward sports drama struggle in a way that's compelling-she generates serious empathy and sympathy for a character who doesn't always deserve it.
Clearly a fan, or at least an admirer of professional entertainment wrestling, Merchant neither glorifies the "sport" nor puts it under a microscope. He's interested in its truths, but also in subverting some assumptions that might be out there about it-that, like anything, it requires hard work and dedication, and a lot of subjective luck. Both the aesthetic and the message should connect with hardcore WWE fans as well as the less indoctrinated.
"Fighting with My Family" doesn't subvert the sports drama or family comedy, but it presents it with enough of a twist and the right talent. Merchant isn't a Hollywood guy, but he's making a Hollywood film, and consequently his movie both succumbs to and overcomes those tropes and pitfalls throughout. In that battle, the character development wins out, keeping our interest in the outcome while supplying a strong amount of entertainment.
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