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Fighting With My Family, the new biopic about professional wrestling, opens in theaters this weekend. Should you take the kids or hire a sitter? Read on to find out.
1. What is it about?
This based-on-true-events movie follows the rise of professional wrestler Paige, who, at the age of 21 became the youngest woman to win the WWE Diva Championship. The movie follows her upbringing in a wrestling-obsessed working class family in England, her introduction and training to become a WWE wrestler, and the struggles of a young woman who feels like an outsider dealing with, well, life.
2. How accurate is it?
I’ll start out here by admitting that the sequences of wrestling in the movie are far and away the most wrestling I’ve ever watched. I’d never heard of Paige before last night. So, in order to answer this question, I read her biography on Wikipedia. From that, I can say that the broad outlines of the movie stick closely to her life story, but, as with all biopics, the movie takes quite a few liberties on the details, compressing a lot of the story along the way.
3. Who is in movie?
Paige is played by actress Florence Pugh, who might be recognizable to our readers from her role in Netflix’s Outlaw King. Lena Headley plays her mother, while frequent Simon Pegg collaborator Nick Frost plays her dad. The coach who selects and trains Paige is played by Vince Vaughn. Dwayne Johnson, who produced the film, and other former WWE stars make cameos throughout.
4. What is the movie rated? Why?
The movie is rated PG-13 for “crude and sexual material, language throughout, some violence and drug content”. Let’s break that down.
The “language throughout” is well-deserved. There’s quite a bit of swearing, including multiple “s” and “f” words and lots of references to body parts, particularly mens’.
“Some violence”… well, yeah. It’s a movie about wrestling. If you don’t expect “some violence”, I’m not sure what movie you thought you were seeing, but it isn’t this one.
The “drug content” is, I think, actually pretty positive. There’s a subplot in the movie where Paige’s brother, Zak, runs a wrestling training program. Every day, he drives around the city picking up his students, and one of them is essentially choosing between wrestling and being pulled into the gang that dominates his housing complex. (The gang leader, by the way, is played by the real-life Zak.) So yes, there are drugs, but the movie has a strong anti-drug message.
I saved the first note in the rating for last because it’s the odd one to me. The “crude” part, I think, is a further reference to the language. But the “sexual material” is a bit of a stretch. The other three women who are training with Paige, but also in a way competing with her, are all shown to be former models, and are almost exclusively shown in either bikinis or very tight workout clothes, but the movie is clearly making a comment about the exploitation of women by the WWE with them.
But one thing that I feel the movie does very well is in not sexualizing the character of Paige. A quick Google search on her shows that she very often wears tight, revealing outfits, which again seems to be par for the course for women in wrestling. And yet, the movie goes out of its way to not ever dress her this way, I think because they really wanted to show that she was there because she was a wrestler, not just another hot body.
5. Will my kids like it?
Younger kids probably won’t. It’s a pretty talky movie, and again, there are lots and lots of bad words. But teens likely will, even if they aren’t fans of wrestling.
The movie has several positive messages beyond the anti-drug one mentioned earlier. The overall story here is of a young woman who is given the chance to pursue her dream, but then discovers that doing so will be far harder than she imagined, so she needs to decide if its worth it, while also figuring out how she can remain true to herself.
The other important story follows her brother Zak, who like Paige dreams of becoming a professional wrestler. But unlike his sister, he doesn’t move on past the try-outs, and so must face the reality that he will not accomplish his dream, and has to deal with that disappointment while also watching his sister succeed.
I plan to take my 13-year-old son to see it.
6. Will I like it?
As I said above, I don’t follow wrestling in the slightest. I went to see the movie because the trailers made it look pretty funny. And it certainly was that–there are many laugh-out-loud moments throughout. What I was expecting was how much heart the movie has. While it is in the end a pretty formulaic underdog sports movie (including, of course, a training montage), I thoroughly enjoyed the movie.
7. How long is the movie?
Given the continuing trend of movies to get longer and longer (of this year’s nine Oscar Best Picture nominees, only The Favourite is under 2 hours), it’s nice to see a tightly edited film like Fighting, which clocks in at only 1 hour, 48 minutes.
8. When’s a good time to sneak out to the restroom?
The movie is short enough that hopefully you won’t have to, but there are a few training sequences where you can go without missing much if you hurry. The obligatory training montage, unfortunately, occurs in the last act, so if you’ve waited until then you can probably make it through to the end.
9. Is there anything during or after the credits?
As the credits begin, there are a series of home movies of Paige’s real life family, followed by scenes from her first big win. In them, we find that several of the scenes from the movie were basically shot-by-shot recreations of real events. We also learn that the actors chosen to the play the parts all very closely resemble their real-life counterparts, which is fairly rare in biopics like this.
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