Direction: Stephen Merchant
Country: UK / USA
British helmer Stephen Merchant brings family and wrestling to the forefront, propping up a crowd-pleasing comedy that feels as strenuously fraudulent as its topic. Expect a lot of stagy representation both inside and outside of the ring, in a fact-based story adapted for the big screen with a dramatic bait that is way too much contrived.
Siblings Zack (Jack Lowden) and Saraya Knight (Florence Pugh), were born in England, in a family of enthusiastic wrestlers. Their dream is to become professionals in the US and they have all the support of their liberal, hippie parents, Ricky (Nick Frost) and Julia (Lena Headey), also fans of the sport. These youngsters are go-getters and their passion and effort lead them to compete for a place in the WWE.
But whilst Saraya is picked among a bunch of candidates to participate in an intense training season in Florida, Zack, who is expecting a child, is left behind. Definitely separated from his childhood dream, he lets resentment undermine his soul and radically change his conduct. Meanwhile, Saraya, who changed her name to Paige and boasts an underground punk-ish style, is not adapting so well to the American ways, clashing with her three fellow colleagues, all former models and cheerleaders. Apparently, not even a change of look can make her swallow the strong pride and overcome the fact that she’s homesick and has no friends or motivation. Hence, the easiest way to end the pain is giving up. Will she?
Although making the experience a bit less painful through occasional funny lines about British/American divergences as well as contrasting postures between liberal and conservative families, the director makes this account feel too schematic in all its narrative. Energetic fights at the sound of hard rock music are intercalated with scenes soaked in melodramatic gimmick, which never worked for me. Already twisting in my seat, I was gladdened when, finally, the credits started to roll.