Based on the real-life story of WWE wrestler Paige, 'Fighting With My Family' follows Saraya Bevis (Florence Pugh) and her story from amateur wrestling with her brother (Jack Lowden) and her parents (Nick Frost and Lena Headey) to the heady world of the WWE. After being recruited by a talent scout (Vince Vaughn) and brought to Florida to train, Saraya soon realises that there's a major difference between the dream and the reality of being a professional wrestler.
While it's easy to scoff and laugh at wrestling, there is something decidedly sincere about it that very few forms of entertainment can offer. It's so clearly fake, so earnestly trying to win you over, that a movie about it could easily be accused of being schmaltzy and saccharine. 'Fighting With My Family' does give wrestling a certain amount of realism, particularly in how rigorous the training program is for wrestlers. However, the story itself is one that's played out in about a dozen or so sports movies and doesn't so much avoid the cliches as it leans into them.
Again, it's like wrestling - it's sincere about it, and does it in such an earnest way that it's hard not to be cynical about it. Florence Pugh carries the movie across her shoulders as Saraya, and gives a broad performance, balancing the broad comedy moments and the dramatic with a natural ease. Pairing her with the underrated Jack Lowden, you feel a real sense of connection between them as brother and sister, the same with Lena Headey and Nick Frost as their misfit parents. If there's a weak link in all of it, it falls to Vince Vaughn as the hard-nosed talent scout who just wants to Saraya to be all she can be.
Stephen Merchant, pulling double-duty as writer and director, keeps the pace up and the emotions right at the surface throughout the movie. The beats and the rhythm of the story are familiar and border on the cliche, but it's all done with such a clarity of purpose that you can almost forgive it. The comedy, such as it is, doesn't have anything close to the edge or wit that he's displayed on the likes of 'Extras', 'Life's Too Short' or even any of his standup. But, again, it's not really called for primarily because the movie paints in broad strokes and has a borderline simplistic quality to it.
While it has a charm all of its own and a heart as a big as The Rock's biceps (who cameos as himself, by the way), 'Fighting With My Family' is an entertaining if exceptionally predictable story about the triumphs and travails of professional wrestling.