Fighting With My Family

Fighting With My Family (2019)

A former wrestler and his family make a living performing at small venues around the country while his kids dream of joining World Wrestling Entertainment.

Starring: Florence Pugh • Dwayne Johnson • Lena Headey • Vince Vaughn • Nick Frost

*Minor spoilers*

I love an underdog movie and the true story of Paige the WWE diva is a really satisfying watch. Sure, there aren’t many surprises and the narrative is pretty formulaic – but there’s a comfort in that.

If I’m honest I didn’t expect to love it as much and I think that’s mostly down to the casting. Saraya Knight AKA Britani Knight AKA Paige is played by the lovely Florence Pugh – an actress who first blew me away in Lady Macbeth.

Hands up if you love Florence Pugh!

As Saraya – or Ray to her family – tackles minor success and then the absolute brutality of what fame and fortune really requires from her, Pugh takes her through every emotion. Elation, guilt, despair – determination. She is an absolute joy to watch.

Ray’s family are a dream too – in the form of Mum Julia (Lena Headey) and Dad Ricky (Nick Frost) – and brother Zak (Jack Lowden), her wrestling partner-in-crime. The unit live and breathe the sport and run their own, barely surviving wrestling gym. Both Ray and Zak teach the community kids and generally keep them out of trouble and off the streets.

The kids and all the side characters peppered around the gym are really fun, as are the appearances of Hugh (director Stephen Merchant) and Daphne (Julia Davis) – straight-laced parents of Zak’s baby mama. The dinner party scene really made me chuckle a lot.

Adopt me, please.

When the siblings finally get the opportunity of a lifetime to audition in front of WWE trainer (Vince Vaughn), it has massive consequences for the family and Ray – and more so for the relationship between brother and sister. In both good and bad ways.

Ray travels to Florida to try out with the big boys and girls – and the standard could not be more different. Can she embrace who she really is and find her own place in this world?

There are some really interesting themes explored here – not least the devastation of being left behind felt by Zak. As his sister lives out their shared dream, he has to come to terms with focusing on a new one and it takes him a while.

In happier times…

Ray has to decide how much she really wants to be part of the WWE’s main roster and – who knew – the girl also has a lot of growing up to do. Well, she is only EIGHTEEN.

She (now going by Paige) struggles with the other girls, making lofty assumptions about them because they’re mostly models and dancers. Her illusion that they deserve their places in try-outs less than she does her no favours. Can she claw it back with these women and make a couple of much-needed friends along the way?

“Think we’re gonna need some Girl Power in this joint ASAP…”

Well, thankfully there’s a shift in both perspective and fortune for Paige – and I loved it. As soon as the girls start working together, it gets better for all of them. They’re even there are the end when Paige inevitably overcomes all her self-doubt, her guilt and her demons to absolutely smash it.

FWMF is funny, sweet, touching and very good. I’m a fan of the feel-good and now I want to know everything there is to know about the real Paige.

I definitely recommend catching this while it’s still in the theater.

⭐⭐⭐⭐½ out of ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

What are you watching?

Behind Again

I’m still reviewing Halloween movies here firmly in December and that’s because I’ve been busy and lazy, a wonderful combination. So I’m going to have to squish some of my To Do list into one post, which I kind of hate but what can you do?

Here’s what I’ve been watching since the end of October:

Halloween

I waited for what feels like forever for this 40th anniversary sequel and… I can’t say I was disappointed. A lot of it doesn’t work, some of it spectacularly (looking at you fake Doctor Loomis/terrible podcasters) but all in all David Gordon Green‘s offering is a lot of fun and that’s what I wanted.

Jamie Lee is dope as the deeply affected, original Final Girl™ Laurie Strode. A lifetime of paranoia has made her into a reclusive survivalist and she is barely holding onto her family as a result. But what happens when all that preparation finally comes to fruition? Well, you’ll find out when Michael Myers busts out of the institution that has held him for the last four decades – and the whole thing is as gory and tense as you’d imagine. Plus, there’s something truly disconcerting about the humanisation of The Shape just before shit kicks off.

My Rating

4.5/5. Probably for nostalgia more than anything.

Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween

In my opinion this movie suffers for not featuring enough Jack Black but IT’s Jeremy Ray Taylor does a fine job as a mini version of the man himself. If I’m honest, I don’t remember too much about the plot (I think because I saw The House with a Clock in its Walls right before it and they’ve sort of blended into one) but I did enjoy its childlike Halloween wonder.

The effects are very good – plenty of inventive monsters and sadistic gummy bears – the kids are fantastic and Slappy is a dollop of mischievous fun. I think I’ll always be here for the Goosebumps movies honestly, they’re charming. I’ll definitely be hitting this up with a re-watch as soon as possible.

My Rating

3.5/5. Witches be crazy.

The Hate U Give

Based on the YA novel by Angie Thomas which I have half read, THUG is a pretty solid adaptation, if a little heavy-handed in its delivery. Starring the ridiculously talented Amandla Stenberg as our main protagonist Starr and the ridiculously cool Regina Hall as Starr’s ferocious mother Lisa, this movie examines subject matter that is all too relevant. I enjoyed the ride and also cried like a baby throughout.

While I could never understand what Starr and her family and community have to deal with, I was pumping the air with triumph as Starr stood up for herself and her lost friends in the most dramatic, tense scenes imaginable. Not only does this movie look at the horror of racism and police brutality, it also hones in on the insidiousness of subconscious prejudice, particularly within Starr’s own friendship group. Russell Hornsby is fantastic too as Starr’s wise old ex-gang member father.

My Rating

4/5. Powerful stuff.

Slaughterhouse Rulez

Meh. This, sadly, was a steaming pile of nothingness and given the cast, I’m surprised. It’s just not that memorable, funny or endearing – and takes an age to get going. When it does there are a couple of okay moments but there’s not enough to make it worth the effort. Sorry, Nick Frost, I still love you.

My Rating

2.5/5. A real stinker.

Widows

My takeaway from this is that Viola Davis should be cast in every film from now on. Literally every single one. As freshly widowed Veronica, she is mesmerising – the perfect blend of vulnerability and strength – I couldn’t keep my eyes off her. She is matched perfectly though by Elizabeth Debicki as Alice, who steals scenes left and right, even from the Queen herself.

I enjoyed this film very much, it follows the lives of a handful of women left devastated by the death of their husbands, a band of bank robbers. But as with most crime capers, there are twists at every turn and danger lurking in every shadow, not least the terrifying Manning Brothers, Jatemme and Jamal (played, respectively, by two of my favourite actors, Daniel Kaluuya and Brian Tyree Henry).

My Rating

4/5. Girl power at its finest.

***

What have you been watching?

Kinky Boots (Film) Review

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Week 2 in April’s Blog Free or Die Hard series and this one’s a corker. A great British classic if you will and a film that has spawned, not only a hit West End play but also a huge crush on its leading man, by me.

I saw this when it first came out over a decade ago now and loved it so I’m pretty stoked to be getting a second viewing of it for the purposes of the collab.

But has it stood the test of time? We shall see!

As always *Spoilers*!

Kinky Boots (2005)

Director: Julian Jarrold
Stars: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Joel Edgerton, Sarah-Jane Potts, Nick Frost

IMDB Synopsis: A drag queen comes to the rescue of a man who, after inheriting his father’s shoe factory, needs to diversify his product if he wants to keep the business afloat.

My Review:

Well, this was just the ideal film to view on a Sunday afternoon because it’s joyous, frankly. I know I’m jumping the gun a little and I’ll rein it for now but I had so much fun being involved that I might as well have been stitching thigh high boots next to Nick Frost myself.

Anywhoo. We start with a cheeky little insight into the childhoods of the two men we’ll come to know as the main characters of this fabulous (and true!) tale.

Lola (Ejiofor), who is Simon as a child, has an epiphany in a pair of red heels (they are always red heels) much to the disdain of his strict and unforgiving father. Meanwhile, young Charlie (Edgerton) learns first hand the importance of a damn good Oxford brogue and all that goes with it.

Many years later, Charlie has finally flown the nest, leaving behind his father’s shoe factory for a life in the city with his fiance, Nicola. Tragically, before the couple have even closed the door on their first night in their new life, Charlie receives the call to say that Mr Price (Robert Pugh) has passed away.

Back in the family business and unclear about the future, Charlie quickly realises that things aren’t looking great financially. In short, the original Mr P wasn’t a great business man and he’s been running the factory into the ground.

Charlie does what he can to sort it and on a mad dash to London to offload some stock, accidentally gets himself involved in a street assault. Being on the goofy side, it’s Charlie who ends up most injured, even though he’s supposed to be the saviour. Lola’s the one being attacked, though really, she’s doing just fine without assistance.

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Undiluted perfection

Lola is brusque and Charlie isn’t exactly comfortable when it’s revealed who Lola is but he has a look around the nightclub she works in (where he finds himself recovering) and then goes on his merry way.

He doesn’t give Lola another thought what with being so busy having to lay off staff and frantically find a way out of the factory going bust. When he lets Lauren (Potts) go, he gets a mouthful about diversifying the product but comes up short on a good idea. At first anyway.

Eventually the penny drops and an excited Charlie ropes Lauren into a trip to the Big Smoke where they meet Lola at the club and float their idea past her- shoes for transvestites. Lola’s into it as, conveniently, she’s been suffering with pinched feet in stilettos for years. She even agrees to travel up to Northampton to pick up her first pair of boots in person, though Charlie tries to persuade her otherwise.

KINKY BOOTS, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Joel Edgerton, 2005, ©Buena Vista Pictures

“The fuck you just say about my jacket?!”

Predictably – but oh so fabulously – Lola arrives in full drag and causes quite the stir with the factory workers. There’s nothing new here as Nick Frost mistakes her for a ‘real woman’ and catcalls her publicly, only to be shot down with the truth in front of his colleagues.

I love Nick Frost with every fibre of my being and I hate that he’s the worst in this, although of course, of course he’ll eventually redeem himself, revealing that he’s a teddy bear really with a heart of gold. But it takes a while, a truckload of homophobia and an arm wrestling challenge for him to start changing his mind about Lola, and to start to grow as a human being.

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“At least his grammar’s on fleek…”

Lola, in fact, has some growing of her own to do and turns up to the factory on the second day without her finery. (Chiwetel is ridonkulously sexy in any outfit at all times, I’m sorry). Nick Frost is mean to her and manages to completely derail her, which comes as a surprise to Charlie, and perhaps to us, the viewers.

You see, Lola is a born performer with no fear but she’s the Sasha Fierce to Simon’s Bey and I think we can all understand that. Lola and Charlie have a heart to heart about their lives and Lola lets Simon in about his father, a boxer who disowned him and then died before they were able to reconcile. (Well, of course I sobbed).

Lola then starts to stand up for herself against the work bullying (which really only comes from one person) by asking Nick Frost what she has to do to ‘be a man’ (hence the arm wrestling). The other workers are a mixture of fascinated/bemused by Lola, with some of the men asking well-thought out (if probing) questions about her sexuality and why she dresses the way she does if she doesn’t want to sleep with men.

“Fabulous does not come with a flat heel, people!”

FYI the first prototype of the first boot does not go down well so Lola sticks around to be the designer. Obvs. She wants heels heels heels so one of the most endearing parts of the film is where some of the old school workers come up with an idea for a reinforced steel stiletto heel. Cuuute – but also: deadly.

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“Not really sure they’ll offset the tabards, mind…”

Charlie, while all this excitement occurs is trying to hold on to his fiance (correction: she is the worst) who is pushing him to sell the factory so they can start their life. She’s also desperate for a Jimmy Choo wedding and is massively unsympathetic about anything that doesn’t involve her.

She’s a monstrous caricature of a woman who is not right for Charlie at all and you’ll never guess what she goes and does, thus leaving him safe to pursue the success of his factory – fashion show in Milan, baby! – and another nearby romantic interest…

Mysterious this plot it not but it’s as familiar as your favourite pair of pajamas and that’s what makes it so bloody lovely.

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Some women just don’t deserve nice shoes

It’s not all fun and games for a while though, as Charlie remortages his home (without telling Bitchy Nicola) to fund a slot on the catwalks of Milan (as you do right off the bat). In the lead up to Milan tensions rise among the staff, and there are harsh words and walk outs (but the opportunity of redemption for one worker, praise the Lord!).

Charlie also rows with Lola by accident (on the night he finds out Bitchy Nicola ain’t nothing but a lyin’ cheat), and says a few things he can’t take back. This sends Lola sashaying furiously (but actually deeply hurt) back home to London which doesn’t bode well for Milan and the planned catwalk show.

I’ll park it here just in case you’ve not got round to seeing this beauty yet (you’re nearly 11 years late, yo) but not before everyone’s favourite section.

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The thigh’s the limit in this rather *spoilery* scene

Questions:

Will the show, as they say, go on in Milan or will everything fall apart spectacularly? Will Lola ever forgive Charlie for his unkind words? Will Charlie get the girl (a decent one this time)?

And what, finally, will become of the shoe factory and all the lovely workers? Only one way to find out for your own sweet selves!

My Thoughts:

I like any film that’s about accepting yourself and both our leads have work to do on that front (#selflove). Both men need to work their way out from the shadows of their separate family histories: Lola to let go of regret and guilt, Charlie to find his was along his own shoe strewn path.

It’s sad at times but overall wonderful, hopeful and fucking fabulous. Lola is a dream character with so much warmth to give, while Charlie is a wet wipe who finally comes through at the last hour.

All the performances are spot on but it won’t surprise you to note that my fave, Nick Frost steals the show as far as I’m concerned. It’s not nice to watch a hero sneer his ignorance across the screen but I feel like he nails the narrow mindedness of a small town individual perfectly and then comes through like a motherfucking boss. That’s my boy.

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Nick Frost for Magic Mike 3 please

I have no criticisms except this: Bitchy Nicola flees the restaurant she’s in with her lover when Charlie turns up but leaves behind her Choo on the pavement? I don’t buy that at all. Sure it’s a loose Cinderella reference but there’s no way I’d leave my £400 shoe for anyone, no sir – and neither would she.

My Rating: 5/5. It’s not perfect by any means but I love it so it gets the full five. So sue me.

So, did Kinky Boots make Jill want to pull on her best sequined number and boogie the night away with her backing dancers, or did it make her want to Sashay Away? You know the drill.