Friday 24 April 2020

Wrestling with Lockdown

With cinemas closed around the world, due to the coronavirus lockdown, more and more of us are watching movies from the comfort of our own home. So, what better time to re-enlist the aid of Paul Moxham who reviewed Spider-Man: Far from Home.

Guest post by Paul Moxham

Wrestling. And in one word I have almost entirely exhausted my knowledge of the subject. I haven’t entered the world of full nelsons, diving clotheslines and sunset flips since my early teens. So it is with great surprise that this sport featured so heavily in both of the films that made up my lockdown viewing this week.

Fighting With My Family and The Peanut Butter Falcon are exactly the sort of films that go straight on my must-watch list, and then stay there, never finding the time or mood to properly appreciate them.

Fighting With My Family is a title that does exactly what it says on the tin; sibling rivalry takes on new meaning when Florence Pugh’s Saraya makes the cut to the elite world of American wrestling’s WWE, whilst her equally passionate brother played by Jack Lowden, doesn’t. Based on real-life events, being written and directed by Stephen Merchant assures the drama and the humour within it are grounded and earned. The family’s passion is never mocked and the commonly held belief among non-fans that it’s all “faked” is dealt with swiftly. The importance of training (including an obligatory montage), both at the top level and the benefits to the community via the local gym show the reality behind the spectacle.

The film is balanced deftly with good-spirited humour that provides Frost and Headley, as the head of the family some of the best lines, whilst an extended cameo from Dwayne Johnson (who also produces) adds a layer of gloss only he can provide.

The Peanut Butter Falcon focuses more on the family you make for yourself. Zack Gottsegen is a young man with Down’s Syndrome, struggling with wanting more from life, chiefly becoming a pro-wrestler, whilst being locked away in a care home. After escaping and winding up in Shia LaBeouf’s boat the two set off to make Zak’s dream a reality.

What follows is a Huck Finn-style yarn on a river, both men finding friendship and level of understanding, that whilst wasn’t clear to them at the beginning, will be to anyone watching. That’s not to say what follows feels in any way contrived; how both characters slowly liberate each other from their cages both physical and metaphorical is an absolute joy. Gottsegen gives a compelling and warm performance, making everyone he comes into contact with question their own attitudes and perceptions. He also provides the most heartfelt put-down in recent cinema history.

Most films could easily be at least 20 minutes shorter, in the case of The Peanut Butter Falcon being on the raft in real-time seems the least one would want. Although in the present situation I’d settle for a return trip on the Torpoint ferry.

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