Many moons ago, when the Lawyer was seven or so he took a shine to wrestling. Not the black and white, saggy pants variety that ITV showed on a Saturday afternoon involving luminaries such as Mick McManus and Giant Haystacks. There was a deaf wrestler in goody goody white budgie smugglers too. It was crap. No, what he liked was the utterly mind numbing, razzmatazz-infected, steroidally-enhanced WWE. All shouty people in ridiculous costumes and with even more strangely unappealling names. He had posters and stickers and pleaded to be able to watch it.
Happily he grew out of it and I put it down to experience, sure in the certain knowledge that I’d never watch it again. Oh sure, I came across members of this elite band who’d morphed into actors – Dwayne Johnson most obviously – but that was different.
And then this film came along, Fighting With My Family, featuring Nick Frost – whose filmography is splendid – and written and directed by the unfeasibly tall geezer from the office, Stephen Merchant and I thought, well, why not?
So what did I learn?
Women wrestlers are divas – which kind of reinforced my perception that it’s more about dribbly men lusting that the athleticism of the exponents though said athleticism is apparent when you watch it up close and personal. Those women are tough.
It’s not fake but it is fixed. Like, Doh! But even saying that there’s a ton of effort and many ways they’ll get hurt.
Script a film about the journey of a Norwich council estate girl to superstardom in Lycra spanx and tinsel and you’ll get a movie with product placement like no other. WWE’s logo is ubiquitous. It’s bloody everywhere. At one point Paige says wrestling is in her blood. ‘Like hepatitis’ says her brother. ‘Yeah I’m infected with it,’ laughs Paige. By the end I felt the same about that awful logo.
Florence Pugh is a grand actress as Paige, the wrestling phenomenon and Lena Headley can play a mother who isn’t psychotically deranged, unlike her Cersei Lannister character – though she is still pretty barking.
This is a classic feelgood film. You don’t have to like wrestling to enjoy it. Indeed knowing nothing about it and therefore having no prior knowledge to undermine the story is maybe a good thing. It’s paced as a British comedy tends to be – slow and certain. It’s oddball, too and there are any number of nice touches to make you laugh.
They try – oh they try – to add tension but the heart of the film, in many ways, is not in Paige’s journey to Diva status but her brother’s failure to progress and his bitterness and eventual redemption. That makes this film stand out a little more, from the crowd.
It’s not got the width and depth that Bend It Like Beckham achieved; twenty-five years on Four Weddings and a Funeral remains a class act with genuine lump in the throat moments; Slumdog Millionaire does things feelgood movies have no right to achieve. No, it’s not in that league but it’s warming on a wet Wednesday when all the TV offers is a choice between repeating Dad’s Army episodes that bubble out like some manic after-curry fartathon and some boy-band celebrity having his gut-bacteria permed to see if it will enable him to regenerate as a Kardashian.
Just don’t expect to come out converted to the glories of modern wrestling. Which is, after all a good thing, yes?