Reel Affirmations 2011
Rating: (4 out of 5)
Saturday, 10/22/2011, 11:00 AM
Feature presentation, $12 at Lisner Auditorium
WITH ONE PUBLIC announcement in spring of 2010, Chely Wright became the first honest-to-god, Country Music Award winning, Grand Ole Opry playing, country music star to come out of the closet. But that one public announcement was the last step on a long journey of coming out — and the first step on a new journey as a prominent LGBT activist.
Wish Me Away chronicles Wright’s journey from her rural Kansas upbringing to the pressures that finally forced her decision to come out. Mixing footage from a camera crew that worked with her in the lead up to her debut and personal video she shot of herself in reality-TV confessional format, the documentary shows how Wright bounced between excitement and terror as the big day approached. She cries. A lot.
While Wish Me Away can be fascinating in showing how the public eye can overwhelm even those who seek and live by it, it also succumbs at times to the same problem many star-centric documentaries share, namely a bit of self-indulgence. Still, when Wright at one point counters the idea that she’s self-hating because of her long-hidden homosexuality with an offhand, ”I’m pretty fond of myself, believe it or not,” it’s one of the many genuine and likable moments.
Because the country music industry has effectively excommunicated Wright, the commentary from within the industry is sorely limited. It’s a shame, because to have heard from some of Nashville’s music stars — whether positive or negative — would have launched Wish Me Away into the realm of fully realized documentary. Instead, we have an engaging and interesting story of a star who wants to use her fame to advance LGBT equality. And that’s not half bad. —SB