Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (August 4, 2011)
Almost 30 years since her last appearance in a Star Wars film, Carrie Fisher seems to have moved from actor into professional confessor. Oh, she does still work in TV and movies quite a bit, but ever since Postcards from the Edge earned her respect as a writer, Fisher appears to have devoted more of her time to discussions of her life’s ups and downs than to her acting career.
This leads us to Wishful Drinking, a live one-woman show in which Fisher offers a warts and all view of her life and times. She starts with a chat about how she woke up with a dead friend in her bed and then goes into her childhood – all the wake back to her gestation and birth.
Fisher’s famous parents Eddie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds occupy a lot of Drinking, but she gets into other areas as well. Of course, we get plenty of comments related to the Star Wars experience; she also goes over her relationships with Paul Simon and others, addictions and mental illness.
How much you get out of Drinking will depend largely on how much interest you take in show business. While the show does develop themes beyond simple “dish”, the wide range of entertainment history Fisher’s life covers becomes its main asset. After all, her mother starred in Singin’ in the Rain, a flick regarded as one of the greatest and most beloved ever made, her father was Eddie Fisher, one of the 1950s’ biggest stars, and she counted Elizabeth Taylor as her stepmother! Add to that her Star Wars connection, her marriage to Paul Simon and many other factors to make Fisher a one-woman history of US showbiz over the last 50 years.
When she focuses on her interpretation of the entertainment industry, Fisher makes Drinking pretty entertaining. She does skew things through her own little prism, of course, but she avoids self-pity much of the time. While Fisher tends to be awfully self-indulgent, she still shows sharp wit and insight into her circumstances.
Perhaps it shouldn’t come as a surprise that a guy who turned 10 two weeks before Star Wars hit screens would like that side of Drinking best, but I do. It’s awfully tough to tell if Fisher views Princess Leia as a blessing, a curse, or both. I think “both” is probably the best answer; her screwy showbiz upbringing and revolving door of stepparents likely would’ve done a number on her anyway, but her instant stardom in 1977 and all the pressures that came with it seems to have sealed the deal.
Fisher discusses Leia from an amusing perspective: that of someone who lost the rights to her own image decades ago. When we see merchandise based on movie characters, we don’t really think how it must feel for those people to see their faces slapped all over tons of products, so it’s interesting to hear Fisher address the topic. And amusing, too, as she digs into the ups and downs of being mass merchandized.
Some definite bitterness occurs, though Fisher’s willing to discuss a range of not complimentary topics – such as the fact people will wonder why she still doesn’t look hot like she did in 1983. Fisher’s surprisingly willing to acknowledge her beauty has badly faded – she only seems half-joking when she mentions comparisons to Elton John – and Fisher does little to make herself seem heroic.
Indeed, Fisher tends to revel in her own flaws and foibles, though those moments don’t tend to be the show’s best – at least not when they get into personal issues like addiction and mental illness. I respect that Fisher wants to address those topics, but when she gets into them, Drinking grinds to a halt. The show feels more like a public service announcement than the dishy showbiz chat it prefers to be.
When Fisher stays with that bread and butter, Drinking can be a delight – and something of a tease, as it feels like we get too little commentary about some topics. I’d love to hear more about her relationship with Paul Simon, and I suspect Fisher could do hours about both Star Wars and her relationship with her mother. Despite some missteps, though, Drinking offers a generally amusing and enlightening one-woman show.
Footnote: Fisher discusses her father Eddie as though he’s still alive because he was when the performance was filmed in mid-2010. He died three months after the taping. The DVD mentions this but waits until the finish of the end credits; the producers probably should’ve made note of Eddie’s passing at the very start of the DVD. Sure, we can figure out the performance took place before Eddie’s death, but Carrie’s discussion of her dad as being among the living throws us off enough that the issue should’ve been addressed earlier in the DVD.