Review of Wish Me Away

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This 2012 documentary revolves around Chely Wright who becomes the first commercial country music singer to come out as homosexual and how her decision stirs up cultural stereotypes within Nashville.
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Movie Review: "Chely Wright: Wish Me Away" --

Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Length: 96 minutes
Release Date: June 20, 2011
Directed by: Bobbi Birleffi, Beverly Kopf
Genre: Musical/Documentary/Biography
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Country superstar Chely Wright has sold millions of albums and is a very recognizable music star on the country music scene. She dreamed of this success and was singing at the Grand Ole Opry since she was very young. Around the same age, she discovered she was a lesbian.

Unfortunately for Wright, she grew up in an ultraconservative home with a religious mother who saw homosexuality as a sin. She kept her secret and was even dating boys to avoid any kind of suspicion on the part of her mother regarding her being a lesbian. It worked, because her mother was none the wiser about her sexual orientation until Wright came out to her in person years later. Her mother instantly rejected her, and they have had a strained relationship since that time.

"Chely Wright: Wish Me Away" tells the story of how Wright made the brave decision to come out publicly after doing so privately to her family and friends. It goes into the back story of her upbringing and the pursuit of her dreams as she settled into Nashville while still just a teenager. They gloss over her climb up the country music ladder because that really is not the focus of this well-made documentary.

The focus is the days leading up to the release of her autobiography, in which she finally tells the entire world that she is gay. Wright is clearly mindful of the potentially negative impact it may have on her career. Country music fans tend to skew conservative, much like her mother. Wright was a country sensation for over a decade while hiding in the closet because she knew her conservative fans might reject her if she came out as a lesbian.

Wright hires a public relations team to gauge the potential impact of her announcement. At this point, she has already written her revealing book and has made the decision to announce her sexual orientation. The PR team is there to help guide her through the process leading up to the actual announcement.

There is a certain amount of cynicism that comes from hiring a PR team, and directors Birleffi and Kopf don't try to hide that cynicism. In fact, they really do not try to hide anything, because Wright is so willing to confess things during on-screen interviews. For example, she confesses that she continued to date men once she became famous so her fans would not think she was gay. She also says that doing so made her confused and depressed. She even delves into her dark depression and suicidal thoughts, all brought on by the fact that she was living a lie.

At that point, Wright turned to the same faith she grew up with as a child. It is this same faith that caused her mother to reject her homosexuality, an irony that is not lost on her. Yet, when the cameras see her meeting with her spiritual adviser, there is no doubt that she feels like God is accepting her. In fact, Wright contends that it was her very faith and prayer that brought her back from the brink of suicide. She also credits her faith with giving her the courage to come out of the closet, even at the risk of losing her career.

The film even captures footage of Wright's much-publicized visit to "The Oprah Winfrey Show," where she brought the talk show host to tears telling her story. She goes on to say that she wants to help the gay men and women out there who are holed up in their rooms with a gun to their head. She hopes that her story will convince them that they are not alone and that they don't have to live a lie anymore.

Towards the end of the film, it is explained to the audience that several of her fans reacted badly to the announcement. Some sent her angry and even threatening letters. Many vowed that they would never buy another one of her albums or pay for a concert ticket ever again. This is basically Wright's worst nightmare, though it is not unexpected. Despite this, the film ends on a somewhat hopeful note. The movie is hopeful that these fans are the exception and not the rule. Only time will tell how successful Wright will be after the announcement, but through interviews we see that no matter what impact it has on her career, this well-adjusted and relieved woman is going to make it through just fine.