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Sundance Surprise: Fighting With My Family

Abe Fried-Tanzer reporting from Sundance

Each year, Sundance hosts a “surprise screening” that’s printed as such on its advance schedule and only revealed during the festival itself. It’s a chance to premiere a hit movie for a small audience that is usually pretty excited about it. Last year, it was Jason Reitman’s Tully, and the year before that, it was eventual Oscar winner Get Out. This year, it’s Fighting with My Family, slated for theatrical release in just two weeks.

This premiere brought out some big stars, including Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Vince Vaughn, and real-life wrestler Paige, whose story serves as the inspiration for this film...

Saraya (Florence Pugh) and Zak (Jack Lowden) grow up in Norwich, England as the children of wrestling fanatics Ricky (Nick Frost) and Julia (Lena Headey). The family runs the World Association of Wrestling, which hosts frequent family fights and classes for children and teenagers who want to learn the sport. When Saraya and Zak audition together for the holy grail of their field – the WWE – only Saraya, going by her stage name of Paige, is picked, sending her on a grueling trip to Florida where she has to prove that she can make it in a tough field where her fellow female wrestlers all look and often act like models.

Florence Pugh's unexpected follow up to "Lady Macbeth"

This true story may seem relatively standard and predictable, and in some ways, it is, but just because it’s easy to guess what happens next doesn’t mean it’s not wonderfully enjoyable. Vince Vaughn is a fun casting choice as the no-nonsense coach, and Johnson is obviously having a blast playing himself. Pugh, whose short resumé thus far includes standout performances in Lady Macbeth and The Little Drummer Girl, is formidable as Paige, natural and sympathetic from her humble beginnings to unexpected victories. Lowden is also superb as the driven sibling who can’t come to terms with not being able to achieve his dream. Frost and Headey are particularly amusing as the outrageous parents who, when they caught their children fighting at a young age, chastised them for not giving it their all and trying to actually win. 

The biggest surprise of this film is that it’s written and directed by Stephen Merchant, best known as Ricky Gervais’ partner on The Office and Extras, though I’ll always remember him fondly as the star of the short-lived HBO comedy Hello Ladies. Making his solo directorial debut, Merchant proves that he knows how to turn great inspiration into a fantastic film, one whose premise is far less outright comedic than GLOW but has more than enough humor to drive it.

Fighting With My Family, distributed by MGM opens in theaters on Valentine's Day, Thursday February 14th. 

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Reader Comments (1)

My only interest about the film is Florence Pugh as I'm wary about the film because it's from WWE and they tend to revise a lot of what really happened for the purpose of entertainment. It's dramatic liberties is likely to annoy wrestling fans but the story might help. Yet, WWE will probably say some things about what Paige did after her main roster debut though likely not mention that she's forced to retire last year to neck issues and she's still in her 20s.

Fuck WWE and fuck Meekmahan.

February 1, 2019 | Unregistered Commenterthevoid99

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