Fighting with My Family (2019)

This Friday sees the release of Kasi Lemmons’ Harriet, a biopic about Harriet Tubman, starring British actor Cynthia Erivo in the title role, so I thought I’d look back on the biopic genre for this themed week. Fictionalised version of real people’s lives are usually made after their deaths, looking back on their legacies and sometimes making the mythical aspects of their story just a little bit bigger, but there have been a number in recent years that deal with more recent stories, and such is the case with Fighting with My Family. The person it’s about is still very much alive, and really not very old, but it’s also a story that’s likely not known to mainstream audiences, hence its telling here. As it involves professional wrestling, there’s a cameo for Dwayne Johnson, one of cinema’s most charismatic stars (and he was also attached as a producer), though the sport has always been about showmanship so quite how accurate it is to life is down to individual viewers I suspect.


I remember seeing Florence Pugh being introduced to the audience before the first time I saw The Falling (2014), which she was in all too briefly, and then her wowing us in Lady Macbeth (2016, which really was one of the best films of its year, and I concede I was behind on that), so with all her excellent skills at projecting deeply internalised emotional states, I didn’t quite believe the news that she was going to be playing a wrestler. And aside from some small fudges in the wrestling scenes to accommodate a stunt double (which amount to rather more feverish cutting than you’d ideally want, given the sport’s emphasis on physicality), she really nails the performance aspects. In fact, this was a far more emotional film than I’d expected or prepared for, as it becomes a story about her character (a real life professional wrestler, Saraya/”Paige”) dealing with her family, and them dealing with her success, especially her brother (Jack Lowden) whose arc is very much one of resentment and then grudging acceptance. That’s probably the main drawback for me about this film — the very clear and obvious character arcs that everyone is going through, and the sentimental beats that the film tries to hit at the appropriate moments — but it’s such a warm-hearted enterprise, and approach with such affection, that I didn’t really mind. It got to me, I was involved in her story, and I barely even cared that the big WWE arena climax seemed to come out of nowhere (professionally). Also, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson remains as solid a presence as you could hope for, even if he never gets his jeans dirty in Norwich as the poster suggests.

Fighting with My Family film posterCREDITS
Director/Writer Stephen Merchant; Cinematographer Remi Adefarasin; Starring Florence Pugh, Lena Headey, Nick Frost, Jack Lowden; Length 108 minutes.
Seen at Odeon Camden Town, London, Tuesday 5 March 2019.

I Give It a Year (2012)


NEW RELEASE FILM REVIEW || Director/Writer Dan Mazer | Cinematographer Ben Davis | Length 97 minutes | Starring Rafe Spall, Rose Byrne, Anna Faris, Stephen Merchant, Olivia Colman | Seen at Cineworld Shaftesbury Avenue, London, Sunday 10 February 2013 || My Rating 1 star bad


© StudioCanal

I’m writing this to catch up with the films I’ve seen this year; I saw this a month and a half prior to writing this review, and my memory of it has faded. It’s a British romantic comedy involving four people, two men and two women, who are with the wrong partners, basically. The film is about them finding the right ones (i.e. swapping who they’re with).

On the one hand, Rose Byrne is really pretty, and perfectly convincing as an uptight professional woman. On the other hand, not a single one of the four main characters is in any way likeable, which means by the end of the film I really don’t care whether or not they get together with the right person, or are all hit by a bus and die. I can reveal that the latter does not happen, but then what does happen is scarcely any more enjoyable.

What keeps the film from being an utter failure is that there are a number of nice comic cameos. Stephen Merchant as a boorish best friend is essentially in a different movie, and although he’s no more pleasant or likeable than the leads, he is at least intended to be that way; small consolation I concede. Even better is the ever-reliable Olivia Colman, who gets the biggest laughs as a relationship counsellor, even if she’s not particularly believable as one (the joke being that she has terrible relationship issues with her own spouse).

None of the actors is particularly bad: they do what the can with the material they have to work with. It’s just a pity, because this could be a likeable film (there were enough jokes to pack the trailer with mirth), it just manages to miss the target.