Monday, January 23, 2017

'The Princess Diarist' review

I'm not the only "Star Wars" fan who wishes the late Carrie Fisher included more on-set anecdotes in her memoir and last book, THE PRINCESS DIARIST.

It's fittingly bittersweet that this is the last book from Fisher and its title is an homage to Princess Leia, who will always be tied to the feisty princess who continues to be loved and adored by female and male fans.

It's not a tell-all of her revelation that she and Harrison Ford had a three-month affair while filming "Star Wars." (I know the 1977 film technically is titled "Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope" now, but back when I grew up it was simply "Star Wars.")

For one, as Fisher says, she's not one to kiss and tell -- at least not in detail. After all, she points out she kept her end of the bargain with Ford for 30 years of not talking about their affair. (Ford was married at the time.) And good for Fisher for keeping it classy!

You don't read memoir like this to get sordid details. No, you read something by Fisher to be treated to her spot-on, no-holds-barred insight and the way she looks at the world. Complete with her one-of-a-kind sense of humor. Topped with her stream of consciousness approach.

Fisher's writing isn't for everyone; I get that.

But I "get" her. (Is it the Carrie/Cary thing? Hahaha!) That's why I've enjoyed her other barely fictional novels. She was never afraid to call it like she saw it -- something I have done more and more as I've gotten older and have owned in the last ten-plus years. Right or wrong.

That being said, I didn't get much out of the dairy portions of THE PRINCESS DIARIST. Fisher already delivered a strong picture of her awkward and physical fling with Ford earlier in the book; I didn't need to read more of her reflections. So I only read about half of the dairy entries.

This photo isn't included in Carrie Fisher's lat memoir, THE PRINCESS DAIRIST,
but what a fantastic offscreen moment
while she and Harrison Ford filmed "The Empire Strikes Back"!
What's intriguing is as assertive and confident Princess Leia is, Fisher was altogether different. Or so she wants us to believe. She spends a great deal of the book painting a picture of how insecure she is -- especially about her weight and looks in the 1970s, although that could just be the actress/author being upfront about who she is and isn't.

Fisher is spot on in characterizing Ford -- or at least who I imagine he is, judging from the actor's interviews. He's literally the embodiment of the strong-and-silent type stereotype who speaks very little. And when he does, it's with grunts, short phrases and monosyllabic responses.

That charismatic and charming guy we see onscreen as Han Solo and Indiana Jones? That's called great acting, CCCers! I'm not saying Ford doesn't have his moments of being charming in real life, but if you've seen any interviews it's obvious he's a man of few words. Ford seems to put himself out there when the director yells "action!" and the cameras roll; otherwise I bet he's quiet, unassuming and keeps to himself.

Speaking of nailing Ford's personality, I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall to see Fisher's impersonation she did of him during one of their first dates to break the silence. Her description is hilarious; you can visualize her every move. Talk about an icebreaker! Fisher's short performance must have been great to get a laugh out of Ford.

Aside from the chapter cleverly called "Carrison," Fisher's greatest insight is about signing autographs -- which she took to calling "a celebrity lap dance." (Admittedly, it's a strange description, but pretty apt once you consider the implications!) It's an especially intriguing perspective since Fisher witnessed her mother, the late Debbie Reynolds, graciously sign so many autographs and interact with countless fans.

Fisher is frank about her distaste at being approaching about doing a "signing" event or going to conventions. But she realizes she enjoys buying things and because she'd become "a poor rich person" -- starting with Reynolds' declining demand for roles as she aged and due mostly to twenty years of Fisher having a "pilfering business manager," such events required her presence so she could live the way she was accustomed.

Overall, THE PRINCESS DIARIST provides a fresh and honest look into being a celebrity, both as Fisher rose to fame and how she depended on her past glories to make a buck or two. Fisher has an unique perspective Hollywood -- as the daughter of a classic film star and being the star of a science fiction saga that has a life of its own.

Her recreation of fans' energetic and earnest rambles at conventions go on a bit too long and I don't think I missed much by not reading half of the diary entries in which she pined and mused over the mystery known as Harrison Ford. But otherwise I enjoyed reading this memoir.

Fisher's equally fresh perspective on filming the "Star Wars" trilogy, playing the same role again, having even more hairdos as Leia and her thoughts on her costars would have been a treat to read. If you know anything about the actress or read any of her barely fictional novels, you'll find DIARIST a quick, breezy read and for the most part is every bit as intriguing as its quirky and complicated author. Even if she doesn't dish on the details I wanted.

Just as in her 60-year life, Carrie Fisher the writer left me wanting more.

Grade: B-


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