For those who don’t know, at the time of this movie’s release Paige is 26 years old, so it might seem a little bit early for there to be a biopic made of her life. Of course, this particular movie was based on a documentary that aired before Paige ever made her debut on Monday Night Raw and was much more focused on the family as a whole rather than specifically Paige’s journey to WWE stardom (Hence the title focusing on the Family angle). Of course since 2012, Paige has gone on to become one of the bigger names of the modern WWE women’s roster, so it’s understandable why the movie would want to shift the focus to her success story.
Paige’s background is well known among wrestling fans, so forgive me while I go through a quick rundown of what got her to WWE. Paige (born Saraya-Jade Bevis) was born into a family where every member of the family was involved in professional wrestling. A popular story was that Paige had been involved in the ring since before she was born because her mother once had a match while she was unknowingly pregnant with Paige. Paige had her first match at 13 and then would try out for WWE becoming a part of their development roster by the time she was 19. Fighting With My Family focuses the bulk of its runtime to this part of her life, going from her getting signed by the company and then having to work through the development process on her journey to the main stage.
For the most part, the Paige aspects of the movie play out like a fairly traditional sports movie. Paige (played by Florence Pugh) is portrayed as an underdog having to overcome seemingly insurmountable odds. Professional Wrestling always has a uphill battle to fight whenever it’s portrayed seriously in any other form of entertainment. Usually the idea of a “fake sport” is considered a joke, and like anything else where professional wrestling is part of the story, that mentality has to be addressed in the movie. While wrestling is a scripted sport, the movie takes plenty of time to show how someone can still be good or bad at it. The win/loss record, isn’t as important as your ability to get over with the crowd, and Fighting with my Family does a good job of showing people failing. Because the bulk of Paige’s storyline takes place in the company’s developmental program, we get to really delve into what makes professional wrestling work.
While Paige’s role in the movie has been greatly expanded from how much she was featured in the documentary, the most interesting parts of the story are those that take place back in England with Paige’s family, specifically her brother. Paige and her brother Zak (Jack Lowden) both tried out for the WWE at the same time with only Paige getting accepted, leaving Zak behind with his dream no longer a viable option.
What do you do when the goal you’ve been working for your entire life turns you down? How do you move on from that when you still have most of your life left to live? While the Paige parts of the movie are the focus, watching Zak and his family having to grapple with moving past WWE’s rejection is where a lot of the emotional weight of the movie really comes into focus. It helps that some of the biggest acting power of the movie comes from the England segments as well (with Nick Frost and Lena Headey playing the parents of the two siblings.) While the WWE parts of the movie are able to come across as a perfectly acceptable underdog achieves goal storyline, it’s the mirroring narrative of Zak that ad an aspect to the movie that makes the rest of it feel like something truly special.
The cast is rounded out by Vince Vaughn who plays an amalgamation of several WWE trainers and behind the scenes people, Stephen Merchant who in addition to directing the movie has a brief cameo as Zaks’ future father in law who doesn’t timidly struggles to understand the concept of wrestling, and of course, thanks to his presence on almost every bit of marketing, you have to speak briefly about The Rock, who is technically in this movie although you’ve likely seen 75% of his footage just by watching the trailers for the movie.
While WWE wrestling is a scripted sport with a predetermined outcome of each match, it’s still something that millions of people all over the world get heavily invested in, and Fighting with my Family makes it easy to see why. It focuses on the emotional satisfaction of capturing the attention of the crowd, and getting them swept up in the action that’s happening in the ring. You can complain about how wrestling is “fake” but the movie captures the emotional investment that is possible when wrestling is great, and it bottles that for it’s movie audience as well.
Tags: Fighting with my Family, film, movie, Paige, Raw, review, The Rock, WWE