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Review: 'Wish Me Away' documents Chely Wright's journey

Even though the sympathetic documentary shows unguarded moments, it is still part of a carefully orchestrated media campaign surrounding Chely Wright's coming out.

June 15, 2012
  • Chely Wright as seen in "Chely Wright: Wish Me Away."
Chely Wright as seen in "Chely Wright: Wish Me Away." (First Run Features )

A behind the scenes look at the process by which country music singer Chely Wright publicly came out as a lesbian to her family, the world and the conservative establishment of the Nashville music industry, "Chely Wright: Wish Me Away" presents a sympathetic, emotional portrait of a life at a pivotal transition.

Though filmmakers Bobbie Birleffi and Beverly Kopf capture all the moments one would want to see in the process of Wright's coming out, it is the painfully raw video diaries shot by Wright herself — presented later to the filmmakers who had no idea their subject was making them — that provide the film with its emotional core and greatest insights.

A close look at her anxieties and worries, both professional and personal, the diary tapes let viewers behind Wright's more polished public image, often capturing her puffy-eyed and sniffling, expressing her fears and doubts.

Besides an intimate look at Wright's emotional journey, the film is also an instructive look at how a concerted media campaign — a book launch, a record release, television and personal appearances — comes together around such a personal event. The scene in which Wright goes through media training with publicist Howard Bragman, discussing the distinction between the word "admit" versus "acknowledge," says much about contemporary media messaging.

Which is not to make "Wish Me Away" sound at all cynical even as it is part of some larger campaign on Wright's behalf. Much like the image of Wright presented by the movie itself, "Wish Me Away" is graceful, sincere and heartfelt.

Mark Olsen

"Chely Wright: Wish Me Away." No MPAA rating. Running time: 1 hour, 36 minutes. At Laemmle's Music Hall 3, Beverly Hills.

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