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Wishful Drinking Review

If you don’t know who Carrie Fisher is, you’ve probably been living under a rock since 1976. Then again, even people who live under rocks have probably seen (or at least heard of) Star Wars, the groundbreaking sci-fi franchise that made Fisher an icon thanks to her role as Princess Leia, intergalactic heroine and sex symbol to geeks of multiple generations. The pros and cons of such overwhelming fame feature prominently in Wishful Drinking, the HBO special that essentially is just a taping of a performance of Fisher’s one-woman Broadway show of the same name (also published in memoir form). Yet the simplicity of the production value and the format serves only to better highlight Fisher’s talents as a performer. Those of you who only know Fisher thanks to George Lucas would do well to watch Wishful Drinking, as it reveals a side of the actress and writer that is a stark contrast from the character that made her a star—and a far more interesting one to boot.

Carrie Fisher was born to “America’s Sweethearts” of the 1950s, Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher (“simple folk” she jokes). Their marriage notoriously fell apart after her father had an affair with Elizabeth Taylor following the death of Taylor’s husband (and close family friend) Mike Todd. A large part of Wishful Drinking consists of Fisher using photos and a large bulletin board and pointer to chart out their various relationships after they divorced, and the fall-out of such drama on other Hollywood elite. Yet Fisher manages to make the dysfunctional dynamics of her family and their entourage hilarious rather than depressing.

She opens the show with an anecdote about the death of lobbyist Greg Stevens in 2005 while he was staying as a guest not only in her mansion, but also in her bed. The event was so traumatic for Fisher that she fell back into addiction and later began to rely on electroshock therapy—something she highly recommends to the audience later in the show. Yet Fisher finds the humor even in death, and encourages the audience to do the same. By giving us permission to laugh at the tragedy, she makes us feel like we’re her friends. The stage is set to look like a living room, complete with cozy recliners and couches, and Fisher moves about the stage comfortably and speaks with candor, as though the entire audience is at home with her listening to her spill her secrets. Even her outfit—an oversized button down, leggings, and socks—adds to the air of intimacy.

Fisher’s relationship with the legendary films that launched her into superstardom is just as fraught with ups and downs as her personal relationships are. She describes her hatred of the infamous hairstyle that she claims made her already fat face look wider, and the embarrassment that comes with having a sex doll in your likeness (on the other hand, having a Pez dispenser that looks like you is a must that everyone should take advantage if they can). Her jokes about George Lucas bring the legendary director down to earth and turn him from a figure of legend to one of amusement, especially when she insists that he told her once, “There’s no underwear in space.” You have to hear it yourself to believe it, but apparently it’s true.

The tone of Wishful Drinking is best summed up by an episode Fisher relates that occurred between herself and her daughter Billie. When Billie told Fisher that she wanted to be a comic when she grew up, Fisher advised her that between a manic depressive addict of a mother, a homosexual father, and the various shenanigans her grandparents had gotten into, that she’d have plenty of material to write about and talk about. When Billie laughed in response, Fisher declared that the ability to find such things funny was a sign that Billie was going to be all right. Fisher’s ability to not only find the humor in the traumatic experience of her life, but also to share those experiences with others and allow them to find the humor in them too, is what makes Wishful Drinking such a delight to watch.

DVD BONUS FEATURES

There are three deleted scenes that are just as funny as anything in the actual 76-minute film. My personal favorite is Fisher’s dramatic reenactment of her famous first speech from the first Star Wars film, followed by a furious outburst that she’ll never be able to forget “that stupid hologram speech” and that’s why so many other things are unable to be fit into her memory. There’s also an interview with Debbie Reynolds titled “My Alleged Mother,” and while it’s interesting to compare the actual person with Fisher’s descriptions and impersonations, Reynolds is not nearly as entertaining as her daughter.

"Wishful Drinking" is on sale August 2, 2011 and is not rated. Documentary. Directed by Fenton Bailey, Randy Barbato. Written by Carrie Fisher. Starring Carrie Fisher.

Aug
03
2011
Lee Jutton • Staff Writer

Lee attended NYU for Film & TV Production, but she now works mostly in PR. Her primary obsessions in life are Doctor Who, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Arsenal F.C. When not writing about things she's watched, she's running or kickboxing in preparation for the inevitable zombie apocalypse. 

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