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Monday, October 15, 2018

'This Will Only Hurt a Little' by Busy Philipps

Sent by the Publisher in exchange for an honest review

From the BLURB:

A memoir by the beloved comedic actress known for her roles on Freaks and Geeks, Dawson's Creek, and Cougartown who has become 'the breakout star on Instagram stories . . . imagine I Love Lucy mixed with a modern lifestyle guru' (New Yorker).

Busy Philipps's autobiographical book offers the same unfiltered and candid storytelling that her Instagram followers have come to know and love, from growing up in Scottsdale, Arizona and her painful and painfully funny teen years, to her life as a working actress, mother, and famous best friend.

Busy is the rare entertainer whose impressive arsenal of talents as an actress is equally matched by her storytelling ability, sense of humor, and sharp observations about life, love, and motherhood. Her conversational writing reminds us what we love about her on screens large and small. From film to television to Instagram, Busy delightfully showcases her wry humor and her willingness to bare it all.

'I've been waiting my whole life to write this book. I'm just so grateful someone asked. Otherwise, what was the point of any of it??'

*** 

‘This Will Only Hurt a Little’ is Busy Philipps’ memoir, available in Australia by Hachette and available from October 16.

Confession – I instantly flipped to the “Is This It” (The Strokes) chapter of Busy’s memoir when it arrived. The ‘Dawson’s Creek’ chapter – because how could I not? This was the show that defined my teenage years of yearning, and a couple of weeks previously myself and a bunch of rad people on Twitter had concluded an epic live-Tweeting re-watch of all six seasons (#PaceysCreek). We had all been in agreement that Busy’s character of Audrey Liddell had been a low-point in an already terrible final two seasons of a once-great show … but we were also all in agreement that upon re-examination as strong, feminist adults – Jen Lindley and Michelle Williams had been the true breakout star of that show, and we were all smitten with her and Busy Philipp’s best-friendship that had its start in Capeside.

So I flipped to the gosh-darn ‘Dawson’s Creek’ chapter because I wanted goss – particularly on Busy’s sure-to-be-truthful observations as a late-comer to the show and how the dynamics played out by then. And she did not disappoint … or – maybe she did – but not in her gossip content delivery, just in shattering some of my teen idols;

Josh really fancied himself “one of the guys” with the crew. The Creek’s very own mini George Clooney! He’s a good guy and just wanted to be well-liked but I wish I’d known the term “mansplaining” when I met Josh. His ability to turn a conversation into a dissertation was incredible.
Dang it, Pacey! 

There’s also a lot of hints given about the tensions on set between the cast by this point, as Busy points out;

One day, the whole cast was sitting around a table filming the Thanksgiving episode, and James looked at me and said, “See? You got lucky. Your show was cancelled after the first season.”’ 
Gossip delivered. But the chapter offers a lot more than just the Dawson’s Creek revelations I had hoped for… Busy highlights the many ways she was made to feel inadequate about her weight and appearance on the show, particularly in being constantly compared to the “breakout star” of Katie Holmes. The chapter also takes a sharp turn when September 11 happens in the middle of a break from filming, and Busy needing to take a flight back to Wilmington from LA despite being terrified – as everyone was in those days – of getting back on a plane and then having to carry on with life and work. In the wake of it all.

I felt so silly at work the next day, dressed in a costume for the Halloween episode. The world was fucking ending and I was trying to get Joey Potter to come to a party with me. I remember there were a lot of pep talks about how this is what we do. We make entertainment for people so that they can escape the real world for forty-three minutes a week. It’s not without value or merit. It’s important to not just tell stories, but also to remember to entertain. Any anyway, someone’s got to. May we well be us.
And so we did.

And she delves into how she started drinking as a coping mechanism for all the ways the world sucked, and she was made to feel shitty in her little corner of it. The chapter ends on a doozy of a scathing and on-point one-liner and it pulled me up short. Hang on. I was mostly looking forward to this memoir for the celebrity gossip, but … could it be that Busy is actually a good writer?

Yes. She is. A damn fine one, in fact.

I went back to the beginning and then I didn’t stop – I ended up reading the whole book through to 1AM when I finished, teary-eyed and a little weak from the punches she packed.

This memoir is GOOD. Not just good … bloody brilliant! It’s up there with ‘Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?’ by Mindy Kaling and Tina Fey’s ‘Bossypants’ for comedic memoirs … but it’s also more than that. It’s a memoir by an actress in the wake of #MeToo and Harvey Weinstein (who – yes – she knew, but not the extent of his depravity). An actress who is pulling no punches about the toxic masculinity and patriarchy upon which Hollywood is built and Busy acquiesced to for a long time.

Case in point: Busy had the idea for the 2007 film ‘Blades of Glory’ and shared it with her boyfriend at the time who agreed they should write a script together … until he and his brother took the idea and ran away with it, even having the audacity to shop it around without Busy’s name on it, though she’d also contributed to the writing. Luckily she’d registered the idea with the Writers Guild of America screenwriting credit system and they ended up having to credit her, since there was a sufficient paper-trail proving her ownership (so it was fear of potential litigation rather than letting a woman own her damn work as the right thing to do!)

Busy dissects these moments, and many more (including – yes – the one the media has chosen to pick apart in James Franco’s treatment of her on the set of ‘Freaks and Geeks’). But she doesn’t just talk about them in the context of Hollywood. Busy’s memoir – starting from when she’s a child and then a teenager in Scottsdale, Arizona through to her college years acting and early established career – is a searing personal critique of all the ways she tried to contain herself to please men in her life. Tried to be less than, quieter, prettier, thinner, agreeable, laid-back, loving … even at the expense of her own happiness and mental-health. It even results in her convincing herself that being raped at the age of 14 was something that she wanted from the boy, because she convinced herself to love him to make the event “okay” in her own mind.

‘This Will Only Hurt a Little’ isn’t just a memoir. It’s a searing, honest and fantastic examination of a young woman taking control of her life, career and identity. I also got this idea that it’s a little bit ‘La La Land’ meets ‘Lady Bird’ (a film I hated by the way, for its feeling directionless and pointless – but after reading Busy’s memoir I now wish more than ever that Greta Gerwig’s film had some of her beats and honesty to coral it).

The most impacting chapter to me was ‘Tear in Your Hand’ (Tori Amos) which delves into Busy’s first true teenage love affair that ends with an abortion and then winds up somewhere miraculous. It’s a chapter that you feel down to your bones, and is so incredibly literary perfect – I want to see it reproduced in The New Yorker or made into an indie movie (again – better than ‘Lady Bird’ in all ways) or maybe even fictionalised into a contemporary YA novel. This is the chapter that sealed the deal for me – and not just because it shits all over James Franco’s ‘Palo Alto’ wankery. But because it’s genius, perfectly crafted. That I read Sally Rooney’s ‘Normal People’ right before delving into Busy’s memoir further highlighted this for me – the beauty in writing about the pain of teenagers and teenage girls in particular, the finesse and fierceness was all in this chapter. It makes me hope that Busy has another film-script up her sleeve, or another book – collection of essays, further memoir or fiction – I don’t care, I just want more of her words, thoughts and ideas.

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5/5


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