Fighting With My Family

fightin1While it passes the time pleasantly enough, you’re always aware that you’re watching a movie with something like this. There’s something artificial that draws attention to itself, whether it be the casting – Lena Headey, what?!- or the familiarity (bordering on relentless predictability) of the script. The biggest surprise, oddly, is that its all based on a true story. Maybe this is just one of those wild true stories that feels so crazy its something only Hollywood could come up with- the irony that its about something as scripted and false as the sport of wrestling/entertainment is no doubt a big part of it. One of the best parts of the film for me is when one of the characters just openly admits everything is written and set-up, but that the magic is that the fans in the audience are in on it, too, so the trick is in the sincerity.

Sadly though that’s a trick the film, curiously, fails to pull off. It never convinces, always feels insincere, always lacks an edge. I was always aware of the construction going on behind the scenes, the predictability of the character arcs etc – so much so that the film quite quickly became quite boring as a piece of entertainment. You just know whats going to happen so far ahead that by the mid-point you really don’t need to actually see the rest. Characters initially at odds will become freinds, the life-lesson story told by the coach is clearly going to be revealed to be autobiographical, the crisis of a brothers failed dreams will be replaced by reevaluation of his self-worth and new dreams. Our heroine will be victorious and vindicate everyone’s belief in her.

In that sense, there is something  comfortingly reassuring about a film like this- its perfect rainy Sunday-afternoon viewing, I suppose, but that’s quite a damning view in itself, considering the talent involved – alongside Headey, there’s Florence Pugh, Nick Frost, Dwayne Johnson, Vince Vaughn in front of the camera and Stephen Merchant behind it. In that respect this film is a crushing bore and disappointment, tempered by the knowledge that, well, what else could one really expect from something like this?

Fighting With My Family is currently streaming on Netflix in the UK.

5 thoughts on “Fighting With My Family

  1. Tom

    I could not disagree more with you on this one. I thought Fighting with My Family was utterly sincere, charming and one of the more insightful wrestling movies I’ve personally seen in, maybe ever. I’m no wrestling fan myself — I think the culture around it is pretty obnoxious, but this movie helped me appreciate just a little bit more that there’s an athleticism to the stunts and all that; it’s not enough to turn me into a fan or anything but I was glad that the movie was open about the “fakeness” of the whole enterprise. The movie, however, struck me as completely natural and emotionally resonant. To each their own, though.

    1. Well, I’ve said before, every film has its fans. Its a tricky one with movies, the manipulation behind them- all films are manipulative, its just the subtlety behind it that I respond to having seen way too many films in my lifetime. I really felt that there was no subtlety at all with this film, it just telegraphed everything from the start. Which is fine, after all you can guess most films from the first ten minutes. I think this is why Tarantino and Nolan films get such positive responses, as they tend to usurp viewer expectations (everyone likes a surprise).

      Its not that I’m condemning this film because I always knew where it was going, it was how I always felt like boxes were being ticked, or that the film was being shot/edited by some kind of ‘Film-making 101 Cribsheet’- I thought it lacked the sleight of hand that disguises the traditional three-act structure and the character arcs etc. Instead I felt outside of it, observing it from a distance and wincing at the manipulation. Maybe if it was edited/constructed differently- as it is, its really too pedestrian for me,

  2. Sheldon Thomasson

    Have to agree on this occasion I really loved this film. I come at this as a huge WWE fan which muddies the waters somewhat, but this is about a journey and the sacrifices made to both family and body. The scripting in wrestling is deliberately over dramatic but read deeper and you see the human cost. One for fans or maybe one just to take at face value.

    1. Thanks for the comment Sheldon. Its interesting that both you and Tom feel at odds with how I took this film. Never felt ‘real’ to me. Maybe the casting distanced me from from the start- it did seem a bit of an odd fit for Florence Pugh. She’ll be playing Lara Croft next no doubt and really confounding me. I think she’s a good actress but a very internal one, not sure such a physical role really suited her.

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