Country star Chely Wright had been backed in a corner and from the top of the country charts she could see no other way, but to come clean and come out as a lesbian. Her religious right, GOP-leaning fan base was beginning to wonder why Country Barbie didn’t date. She had banked millions in profits, but was miserable. She had broken both male and female hearts, which must have proved to be great source material for her rather ordinary country hits. What was this god-fearing woman-child to do? She decided to pour out her heart in a tell-all book (“Like Me”) and a CD that would end her career, as she knew it. She would round up her entourage ö a spiritual advisor; a publicist; a feminist book editor; a sympathetic producer; a film crew; etc. and forge ahead. One of the many problems with the documentary film “Wish Me Away” is that this slick Îcoming outâ was designed for optimal effect and to make Ms. Wright look as glamorous as ever, thus rendering both the film and Chelyâs revelation fairly contrived.
Directors Bobbie Birleffi and Beverly Kopf really do a disservice to Chely’s emotional story by packaging their film like an episode of 20/20. There is far too much footage of Chely’s CMT music videos, of Chely filming said music videos, of Chely during photo shoots, and of Chely in hair and make-up. The real stuff ö footage Chely herself shot during her darkest moments – is over-shadowed by all the glitz. The directors don’t seem quite comfortable with the transformative and telling footage they’ve captured, but didnât set up. Chelyâs sympathetic aunt, adoring sister, loving father, and even her teenage nephew provide moments of authentic insight that the hours of filming Chely with her handlers and entourage failed to capture. Weâre provided with a countdown to Chely’s media blitz, but the end result comes as no surprise to the audience, because weâve witnessed these spectacles before. Remember Ricky Martin handling his ‘coming out’ ö to a number of clueless masses – a few months prior? Same story.
Ms. Wright is almost an unreliable narrator. Having spent decades lying to others about her sexuality, how is an audience expected to believe that her Îcoming outâ isnât the only career move she has left. The Dixie Chicks were never forgiven for their lead singer’s negative crack about our last war criminal president. They would never again be played on a country station and most likely neither will Chely Wright. That important fact is underplayed by the documentary in an attempt to remain optimistic. Chely is deserving of our sympathy, but having walked into the unabashedly homophobic country music machine with eyes open, itâs another case of a rich, successful individual bitching and moaning about life in the spotlight. Anorexic thin, slathered with the best cosmetics, and her hair Îjacked-up for Jesusâ with hair pieces and a tsunami of hairspray, it’s a bit difficult to take her seriously.
The film is preaching to the choir. Her fan base still includes LGBT folks who canât seem to shake their inner two-stepping shit-kicker. Ms. Wright has considerable talent and would be well advised to shake off the expectation she will change homophobic heartlessness and mindlessness forever tweaked by religious fervor and recognize her new LGBT fan base. We welcome Chely Wright into our fold, but appearing in a Gay Pride Parade or two doesnât quite yet make her the well-respected spokesmodel for the LGBT Community her team thinks she has become. Ms. Wright may believe she is now living an example of Oprah Winfreyâs Îauthentic lifeâ but this film fails to convince those who can manage a bit of critical thinking about Ms Wrightâs actions and the media circus that whips up as another star steps out of the closet. “Wish Me Away” will play well to the heterosexual masses and will certainly make life easier for bible-belt LGBT individuals struggling to come out. However, the film could have been so much more engaging had it focused more on the real Chely Wright and less on the fa