Tag Archives: Nick Frost

Sibling Smackdown

Fighting With My Family

by Hope Madden

Rarely, if ever, has WWE PR been as charming as Stephen Merchant’s biopic Fighting with My Family.

A traditional underdog tale, the film is also savvy enough to know how to wield its source material to broaden its audience beyond your traditional WWE fanatic.

Saraya Knight (Florence Pugh) — or Britani or, later, Paige — takes part in her family’s business. Mornings, she hands out flyers to their wrestling events, mainly to passersby who look down their noses at the notion.

Afternoons she helps her brother Zak (Jack Lowden) coach local kids on the arts of grappling. Evenings, she gets in the ring with her brother, mum (Lena Headey) and dad (Nick Frost) to entertain amateur wrestling enthusiasts in Norwich, England.

Then the call comes inviting Saraya and Zak to audition for WWE at an upcoming London Smackdown event.

The set-up is there and, for any sports story, it is golden. Scrappy working class upbringing? Check! Sibling rivalry? Check! Opportunities for montage? Everywhere!

Better still is a madcap supporting cast you can’t help but love. Frost and Headey share a really lovely and incredibly goofy onscreen chemistry as the Mohawk-sporting ex-con patriarch and former homeless drug addict turned devoted mum. Merchant’s sharp direction and even sharper script avoids condescension or sentimentality.

The solid first act dovetails nicely into a less comedic journey for Saraya, the only sibling the WWE actually hires. Additional supporting players cannot live up to the charisma of Saraya’s family, but Dwayne Johnson plays himself and he has enough charisma for an entire cast.

Vince Vaughn, adding one more to a string of solid performances, plays the recruiter/drill sergeant/coach who helps Saraya find her individual strength for the journey to WWE Diva.

Pugh is the spark that makes the engines go, here. Though Saraya’s wigs are not always believable, her inner conflict and fighting spirit are.

While Fighting with My Family manages to sidestep or subvert a lot of genre clichés, it hardly breaks new ground. Instead, Merchant elevates the familiar with a more authentic feeling backstory and a winning cast.

Outtakes: Looking for Valentine Romance?

Looking for a shot at romancing your way into a fine Valentine’s Day? The Gateway Film Center (1550 North High St.) is way ahead of you. How better to woo your guy or gal than with the best romantic comedy since Fight Club, Shaun of the Dead?
For the third year running, the theater with a special place in its heart for horror unspools the hilarious zombie romp starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. As bromantics Shaun and Ed, the duo need to come to terms with one unhappy girlfriend, one unwanted stepdad, and one zombie horde. Best place for that? The pub.
It’s a truly brilliant film, one worth seeing again and again with the one you love. It’s also an excellent choice for viewing when you’re trying to avoid all the ‘one you love’ shenanigans this time of year. 
Bonus: both Valentine screenings (7:30 and 9:30 pm this Thursday, 2/14) will open with the short “Til Death”, a macabre take on love gone wrong. The film comes from local filmmaker Jason Tostevin, who won the Gateway’s Homemade Horror Short contest in October with his medical spookfest “Room 4C”. 
It’s a film pairing that, like love itself, tells you to aim for the heart. 
Wait. Scratch that. The heart will do you no good. Apparently you’re supposed to aim for the head.
Tickets are $6.50. Expect prizes, trivia, and drink specials (which couldn’t hurt your Valentiney chances).