Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Wishful Drinking DVD Review

An actress, screenwriter and bestselling author (“Postcards from the Edge,” “The Best Awful” and “Wishful Drinking”), Carrie Fisher is the daughter of the late singer Eddie Fisher and actress Debbie Reynolds, known as “America’s Sweethearts” in the late ‘50s.  She became a cultural icon at age 19 after starring as Princess Leia in the first “Star Wars” trilogy in the 1970s.  Despite growing up with “Hollywood royalty” and experiencing early fame of her own, Fisher’s life had its challenges, as she reveals in this uproarious and sobering account.  Combining wry wit and raw facts, Wishful Drinking reveals her own hilarious slant on the not-so-glittering side of being a celebrity.  It’s a show where she’s circling the drain singing.

Film (4 out of 5 stars)

Like most guys my age, my first crush was on Princess Leia or more appropriately, the actress who played her – Carrie Fisher.  She was beautiful among the clouds in The Empire Strikes Back, but by the time Return of the Jedi arrived, my generation was ready, willing, and excited to see her in that metal bikini that’s become iconic all on it’s own.  I can remember being crushed when she married Paul Simon.  After Jedi, she kind of disappeared except to pop up every once in awhile, sometimes in a crappy movie like The Man With One Red Shoe, and other times in good movies like When Harry Met Sally.
Fisher turned her attention into becoming a screenwriter and bestselling author.  Her novels, “Postcards from the Edge,” “Surrender the Pink,” “Delusions of Grandma” and “The Best Awful,” were all critically acclaimed, with “Postcards from the Edge” being turned into a hit film starring Meryl Streep and Shirley MacLaine.  I’ve read most of them and they are all funny but tinged with sadness.  She also occasionally wrote jokes for the Academy Awards and also became an in demand script doctor hired to punch up scripts.  In between all of that, she also unfortunately got addicted to drugs and ended up in rehab and a mental institution to recover.
Taking her personal life and struggles on the road in a very popular show called “Wishful Drinking,” it was eventually  filmed for this DVD to give those of us that missed the stage show a chance to see it.  In the show, Fisher is completely candid about her family history and her personal issues.  She talks about the ups and downs of being a celebrity, getting divorced and getting remarried and having a child only to discover that her husband is gay.  While a lot of people would just sink into a deep depression, Fisher faces the challenges life throws at her with her characteristic caustic humor.
After being born to “America’s Sweethearts,” actress Debbie Reynolds and crooner Eddie Fisher, Carrie had an interesting life even at a young age.  During the show, she illustrates the complicated marriage and relationships of her family through a presentation she calls “Hollywood Inbreeding 101,” complete with a blackboard and a pointer.  She talks about her father’s affair with Elizabeth Taylor which eventually ended with both of her parents moving on to a series of other people with her mother losing all of her money several times because of her husbands.  In 1973, Carrie was sent to England to attend the Central School of Speech and Drama and just two years later had her life change forever when she was cast as the feisty princess from Alderaan in Star Wars.
The world-wide success she received from the Star Wars movies began to feel overwhelming as her likeness began to appear everywhere from shampoo bottles to pez dispensers.  As she jokes since Lucas owns her likeness, “…every time I look in the mirror, I have to send him a couple of bucks.”  She also talks about being diagnosed as bipolar and becoming the poster child for mental illness and electro shock therapy (ECT). Funny and self-deprecating, her show is as entertaining as it’s revealing.  Fisher is completely candid about all of her struggles and that is what sets her one woman show apart from a lot of the others.  The show plays to all of her strengths, as a writer and as an actress and it’s great to see her triumphant return to show business.

Video (4 out of 5 stars)

The 16×9 anamorphic image is pretty good overall but there’s a few instances of compression visible but nothing that really detracts from the movie.  Colors are bright and black levels are acceptably dark.  Flesh tones are natural and consistent and there’s some nice detail during close up shots.

Audio (4 out of 5 stars)

Wishful Drinking’s Dolby Digital 5.1 mix is pretty impressive for a live recording.  Dialogue is clear and understandable even during the multimedia presentations and audience interactions.  Dialogue is delivered through the front channels while the rear speakers providing the live experience from the theater which adds a lot of immersion and it feels like you are in the theater watching the performance.

Special Features (2 out of 5 stars)

There’s not a whole lot of extras on here but they are interesting but are dragged down by some poor production values.  Unfortunately, this is going to bring down the final score as well.
  • My Alleged Mother: An Exclusive Interview with Debbie Reynolds – An almost hour long interview with Carrie’s mother Debbie Reynolds. While Ms. Reynolds is entirely professional during the interview, the interview process itself is completely unprofessional and it looks like it was done by one of Carrie’s assistants.  We watch Ms. Reynolds get prepared for the interview and have to sit through every uncomfortable pause in between questions while the interviewer tries to come up with more questions.  Why this couldn’t be edited in the slightest is beyond me but it’s painful to sit through because of it.  Ms. Reynolds is obviously very proud of her daughter which is even more obvious when she is willing to sit through this.
  • Deleted Scenes – There are three deleted scenes that I believe should have been included in the main movie that includes her thought on the whole “You’re my only hope” speech, an interactive quiz on the mental health of her audience, and a rundown on other notables that either suffered from addiction, being bipolar or both.

Final Thoughts (3 1/2 out of 5 stars)

Much like the star of the show herself, Wishful Drinking is a funny look into Carrie Fisher’s topsy-turvy life as only she could tell it.  From her strange childhood to her wild youth and celebrity, she’s done it all and lived to tell about it.  Her stage show is as much entertainment as it is a tale of survival and I really enjoyed it.
Order your copy today!

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