Fighting with my Family is my favorite film of 2019. That might not be saying a lot, as we’re only 15% of the way through the year. Still, it’s a pleasure to see a film fight through the winter doldrums and take you by surprise. If you were are one of the mindless Rotten Tomato people, you will believe that movie has something to do with dragons. That would be a mistake.
Florence Pugh does something amazing in her portrayal of Paige. Pugh has been stealing the limelight in a ton of indie movies leading up to now. She’s got a charming appeal that plays to the material and mass market appeal. What a lesser actress would turn into a generic sports role becomes something different with Pugh. Paige is her family’s last profitable tie to the sport they love. Sure, they can scrap by and exist on the periphery of society. But, Paige offers her lineage a reason for sticking with the sport for ages.
But, who is Paige? Why did wrestling die off in the 1980s in the UK? The film skirts a lot of that in favor of hitting the biopic highlights of Paige’s life. The now retired WWE Diva who is Internet famous for her nocturnal activities gets to share her special story with the world. Hardcore wrestling fans will say that the Bevis family got to do that about 7 years ago. However, I live in a realistic world where I realize that the majority of people don’t watch documentaries. So, let’s step into the real.
Stephen Merchant manages to capture something missing from the slightly shorter documentary. The Wrestlers: Fighting with my Family had to do more of the leg work of introducing real people. Real people don’t always play in the most attention grabbing ways. The Bevis parents are minor league British wrestling pioneers that want to keep the local circuit alive, while providing a better life for their kids. Meanwhile, both parents know that their daughter Saraya is the star. She lights up the Norwich crowds and eventually gets the attention of the WWE.
The poorly cut together trailers try to pop between family drama and Saraya becoming Paige in the WWE. She’s starstruck, the other girls are mean to her and why can’t Vince Vaughn give her brother a break? Honestly, I’m going to be quite annoyed if the terrible trailers end up costing this film the box office it deserves. I get that selling British family dramas about recent wrestling history doesn’t exactly set the Coastal Elites on fire.
However, these people are the same swine that want to decry the idea of a Monoculture. They do this, while also trying to create canons for what is culturally appropriate in the modern era. Wrestling in America and most of the Western world gets degraded and seen as cheap entertainment. Sure, it’s been around for decades and has turned into an international presence. But, trying explaining that to the hipster douche praising Luchador while pissing on everything that informs it.
What was once the sideshow has now becoming the traveling main stage in most of the world. Ignoring stars like Paige, the Divas and her wrestling family reflects poorly on the detractors. There’s a world of sports history finally being given the credit it deserves. Honestly, I hope that this is the kind of film that makes the WWE and its entertainment partners raise the bar for future offerings. How can the WWE make a movie like The Marine 7 after this?
Fighting with My Family goes wide on February 22nd!