Fighting with my Family (** ½)  PG-13   

The ads for the inspired by true events tale, Fighting With My Family, are a bit misleading. Megastar and wrestler Dwayne Johnson’s presence is seen and felt in just about everything in conjunction with the promotion of the film. It should be noted that he does appear so that is, at the very least, truth in advertising. Just the same it should also be mentioned that his appearance in the film amounts to what is basically a glorified cameo with his scenes confined to the opening and closing acts of the film for a total of less than ten minutes on screen time.

I mention this so that anyone going for the lone reason of seeing the latest project featuring The Rock will know what they are getting themselves into before making a commitment.  

Now having gotten that piece of business out of the way I’ll say that Fighting With My Family is a pleasing enough experience and is easily digested. At least if you can get past the endless product placement of the WWE logo and their branding strategically placed throughout the film. It’s also standard stuff and pretty much by the numbers. You won’t find many surprises from a storytelling standpoint and we’ve seen stories of a similar ilk come down the pike more times than we can count and done with much more panache.

Florence Pugh in Fighting

The actors are charming but the whole endeavor never manages to escape its rote approach to spinning this yarn. That’s a surprise considering that the film was written and directed by Stephen Merchant an alumni of the TV series The Office.     

Fighting With My Family, for those unaware, is the true-life tale of the trail blazing WWE icon, Saraya-Jede Bevis, better known to her fans as Paige. Paige’s roots are traced back to Norwich, England, where she grew up wrestling with her undeniably unconventional family. Paige (Florence Pugh) and her brother, Zak (Jack Lowden) felt like they were destined to perform as a team for the WWE where they could perform their antics on a grand stage. Things take an unexpected turn when the siblings go for a tryout on the global stage. A WWE talent scout (Vince Vaughn) chooses Paige but not Zak. This serves as a breeding ground for familial resentment and all of the accompanying relationship discomfort one might expect.    

Among the cast, Nick Frost, known mostly for his roles alongside pal Simon Pegg in such films as Hot Fuzz and Shaun Of The Dead, stands out in his turn as Paige’s father. He finds just the right balance of humor and sentiment in his performance and his casting is a nice touch. It manages to take the film to a higher level when it treads on overly familiar storytelling ground.

This film is playing in Hickory and all around this area.

Greta (** ½) R

They often say that an Oscar nomination leads to greater opportunities for actors. Actress Isabelle Huppert received just such a nod for her lead performance in the extremely well crafted 2016 film Elle two years ago, and should have won.  I’m not sure if her being offered the lead role in the new suspense thriller Greta is a sign of her fortunes rising in Hollywood. It is, however, a case of a great actress rising to the task to make second-rate material more palatable than anyone would think possible. Without Huppert’s commendable thespian skills on display, this is a movie that certainly would not be remembered two seconds after the experience of seeing it had come and gone. Such are the talents of the great French actress proving once again how commanding she is in even the most run of the mill fare.

Greta is a pretty derivative affair. It does the same sort of thing that similar films do in that it rises and falls on the stupidity of its protagonists. People make incredibly bad choices and fail to act in preventing even worse things from happening when they should. Of course, without that sort of thing this is a film that would likely be over and done in roughly thirty minutes and there are ninety some odd minutes that desperately need to be filled. Without the stupid factor thrown into the proceedings there would be no movie, which will go a long way in explaining things.

Huppert & Moretz in Greta

Chloe Grace Moretz stars as Frances, the innocent and naïve younger counterpart to Huppert’s older crazed lady of the film’s title. Frances is the kind of person who tends to see the best in people and is honest to a fault. When she spies an abandoned pocketbook during a ride home from work on the subway she decides to return it to its rightful owner. Turns out that the owner of the pocketbook is Greta (Huppert), a lonely woman who has recently lost her husband. Frances, having recently lost her mother, quickly bonds with the woman. That is until Greta slowly begins to reveal her true colors, which are anything but pretty. She endlessly stalks Frances after the young girl sees her for what she is and generally makes the girl’s life a living hell in a quest to fill the void in her own life. 

Greta is effectively directed by Oscar winning director Neil Jordan, but you can’t help wondering why he’s wasting his sizeable talents on such disposable fare as this. It’s not that it’s a terrible film, it’s just that a feeling of déjà vu hangs over the proceedings throughout the film’s unspooling. Therein lies the rub.

Greta is playing in Mooresville, Statesville & Charlotte.

Questions or comments? Write Adam at [email protected].