“Fighting with My Family,” directed by Stephen Merchant (“Logan”), is a biopic about wrestler Saraya-Jade Bevis, aka Paige. Debuting in the world of wrestling at the age of 13 at a promotion run by her parents, Paige would go on to sign a contract with WWE, even going so far as to win the Divas Championship at the age of 21 in her debut match. At that point, she was the youngest champion ever.
The film goes into her backstory, establishing a strong pathos as it shows how the inspiration for her and her brother Zack (Jack Lowden, “Mary, Queen of Scots”) comes largely from their parents, both former wrestlers. Paige herself is portrayed by Florence Pugh (“The Little Drummer Girl”) in the film, with Nick Frost (“Slaughterhouse Rulez”) and Lena Headey (“Game of Thrones”) filling out the cast as her parents Patrick and Julia, aka Rowdy Ricky Knight and Sweet Saraya. Documenting her beginnings to her audition and successful entry into NXT and culminating with her first ever WWE Diva match against reigning champion AJ Lee, the film is a slightly clichéd yet passionate message about following one’s dreams and how familial support plays a large part in that.
Now, given that this is a Hollywood-backed biopic, several liberties are going to be taken with the actual material. There is a scene at the beginning in which Paige and Zack meet one of their wrestling idols, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson (“Skyscraper”), who pulls double duty helping to produce the film as well as cameo in it. While empowering and helping to flesh out the film’s message, this meeting never actually happened, as the Rock had just returned to the WWE after a seven-year absence in 2011, the same time that Paige won her first championship belt.
In addition, the character of Hutch Morgan (Vince Vaughn, “Brawl in Cell Block 99”), who ran the NXT auditions and pushed Paige to constantly quit, is an entirely fictional character, placed there strategically for the purposes of serving as an obstacle for Paige to overcome. It is important to point out these clichés so people can recognize them in films going forward and the directors and creators of these biopics can understand why they need to keep making these stories in new and interesting ways.
Despite these clichés, the film is surprisingly one of the most heartfelt and emotionally charged joyrides of the year. People will hopefully leave this film with a sense of empowerment and happiness. The reason for that is because everyone has a family to some extent, and these families are all different in every way. What this film gets right is playing it to the character, not trying to over-sensationalize a story to make people feel better about themselves. By choosing to focus on Paige’s relationship with her family and how that helped mold her into the person she is today, the film is able to get across so many different motivational messages that otherwise would have felt forced. The film is clever in that sense with a bit of a misdirect, as it starts primarily with Paige and Zack both trying to achieve their dreams and almost makes viewers think it is going to be Zack that we follow, until it is revealed to be Paige.
Merchant was the right choice for this film, as he injects so much subtle comedy and heart. The Rock’s presence was felt throughout this entire film, even though he only pops up in two scenes, it can very much be understood how much this story meant to him. He definitely saw a lot of himself in Paige, even if he never actually met her during her molding years. This is a film everyone should see, not just another “feel good” biopic. The WWE would be very wise to invest in films like this going forward.
Image from Movieclips Trailers via YouTube