Fighting With My Family  Review: A competent work with an engaging narrative
Family, identity, and dreams serve as the central theme of Fighting With My Family which is basically a WWE biopic. Paige and her brother Zak have been raised in a wrestling family, and the two gain a rare chance to try out for the WWE. Paige gets in – Zak does not. As Paige becomes overwhelmed with this new world, Zak appears to be falling down a similar path as his older brother, who ended up in prison after failing at this same goal.
There’s not much to this as a work of cinema – this is the standard modern Hollywood-style biopic. It finds a strong central story with a heartfelt message, competent but not pushing any technical boundaries. The camera is here simply to tell the story and nothing more.
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A film with such basic features is going to be limited in its impact, having to be carried almost entirely on the back of its narrative. Luckily, I feel confident in saying that this does have a fairly effective story – despite having next to no interest in wrestling as entertainment, I found myself caught up in the emotions. It finds universal sticking points in its tale of underdogs and ‘failure.’
The other key element of the standard biopic is acting; the central actors here all fit well in their roles, though no one gives anything particularly award-worthy. This film runs on familial interactions, and they do well enough while playing against each other – it’s just hard to do much with such a familiar narrative.
I feel like I keep highlighting the cliches – but I don’t think they’re all that distracting. Despite its simplicity, I truly was engrossed by what was happening. A bitter ring fight between Zak and Paige as she briefly returns home really highlights the wedge driven between them by her success. There’s this constant return to coping – how do you manage dreams that you have been raised on when bluntly told you won’t be allowed in?
There’s a similar focus on who belongs where – we are in on Paige’s side from the beginning, but she is treated as an outcast. We are initially taught to look down on her fellow competitors due to their origins; models, cheerleaders, women who look pretty in the outfit but have never stepped in the ring before. After all, few women have actually raised wrestling. But this underdog story takes a deeper look – Paige is called out for her condescending attitude. She learns nothing of these women, but they all have their own story to tell. In fact, Paige truly appears to be the underdog in every sense, even falling behind on physical training. The film never takes the easy path, insisting on painting everyone in a sympathetic light – in the end, everyone feels like the underdog until they succeed.
Despite being as basic as films come, Fighting With My Family is an entirely competent work with an engaging narrative. While its central focus is on a violent sport, it comes off as an entirely well-meaning and optimistic work. Not everyone will be successful in achieving their dreams – but there is more to life than dreams.