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Fighting With My Family
Review by Rich Cline |
dir-scr Stephen Merchant
prd Michael J Luisi, Kevin Misher
with Florence Pugh, Jack Lowden, Lena Headey, Nick Frost, Vince Vaughn, Dwayne Johnson, Stephen Merchant, Kim Matula, Hannah Rae, Aqueela Zoll, Mohammad Amiri, Jack Gouldbourne
release US 14.Feb.19,
19/UK MGM 1h48
SUNDANCE FILM FEST
A warm and witty crowd-pleaser, this film is based on the true story of a young Englishwoman who took on the world of professional wrestling. Packed with hilarious characters, the snappy script keeps the audience in the grip of its lively humour and surging emotions. It may be thoroughly formulaic, but it's also hard to resist the cast's relentless charm attack.
In Norwich, all of the Knight family wrestle, as Julia and Ricky (Headey and Frost) run a gym as well as a competitive league led by their all-star teenaged children Zak and Raya (Lowden and Pugh). Then Raya's talent is spotted by Hutch (Vaughn), a scout for the WWE. Leaving Zak behind, she heads to Florida boot camp, where she has to confront her outcast status as a goth metalhead in a world of cheerleaders and models. And she also has to find the inspiration to persevere into the big leagues on her own terms.
A couple of encounters with Dwayne Johnson, gleefully lampooning his own image as The Rock, add to Raya's transformative journey from spiky provincial British girl to the fierce WWE champion Paige. Her story has been truncated and adapted into a standard underdog movie, complete with wildly colourful side characters and heart-tugging moments that manage to keep the sentimentality in check. Writer-director Merchant (who also has an amusing side role) has such a sure-handed grip on the material that most scenes feel refreshingly improvised.
Pugh delivers a confident, complex performance as a young woman with a wide range of issues churning inside her. The script sometimes piles too much angst and pressure onto the character, and yet Pugh's thoughtful, alert approach makes her vividly engaging, always sympathetic. Lowden is the only other actor able to add some complexity to his role as a young man grappling with the fact that his dreams need revising. He vividly catches Zak's parallel emotive journey. Finding his new passion isn't that difficult, but Lowden plays it beautifully.
There's a structural simplicity to the narrative that niggles, especially in a movie based on a true story. Supporting actors add amusing quirks to their simplistic characters, and Johnson's scenes are enjoyably grandstanding. In other words, the comical skills of the cast help make up for a script that spends more time cracking jokes than creating believable people or situations. The result is a thumpingly entertaining comedy-drama that lightly taps into themes relating to personal motivation, family values and girl power.
R E A D E R R E V I E W SStill waiting for your comments ... don't be shy.
© 2019 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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