×

Wish Me Away

"Wish Me Away" is a fascinating portrait of Chely Wright, the first significant American country music artist to openly identify herself as gay.

With:
With: Chely Wright, Stan Wright, Jennifer Wright, Russell Carter, Rodney Crowell, Victoria Wilson, C. Welton Gaddy, Don Cusic, Howard Bragman, Richard Sterban, Meredith Vieira, Natalie Morales.

An inspirational account of coming out, “Wish Me Away” is fascinating both as a biographical portrait of Chely Wright, the first significant American country music artist to openly identify herself as gay, and as a backstage look at how an entertainer prepares to make a revelation many might view as career suicide. Winner of the top documentary prize at the Los Angeles Film Festival, pic doubtless will travel far on the global fest circuit, and very likely could score in selected theatrical outings. Don’t be surprised if doc also is used to raise funds and consciousness by nonprofit groups.

Filmed over a three-year period by documakers Bobbie Birleffi and Beverly Kopf, “Wish Me Away” introduces Wright as a small-town girl (born in Wellsville, Kan.) who fulfilled her childhood dreams of success as a country singer-songwriter in Nashville. Yet even as she developed a loyal audience, earned accolades (including the Academy of Country Music’s 1995 prize for top new female vocalist) and climbed the charts with popular singles (such as the No. 1 hit “Single White Female”), Wright was tormented by guilt and fear while hiding and often denying her sexual orientation.

During her youth in Wellsville, Wright admits in one of the pic’s affectingly blunt-spoken interviews, she prayed every night: “Dear God, please don’t let me be gay.” The product of a conservative religious upbringing — and the daughter of an unstable, affection-withholding mother — she arrived in Nashville determined to take Music City by storm. But success only intensified her determination to live a lie while in the spotlight; offstage, she shared a home with a female lover, only to find that deception and denial took a heavy toll.

Docu is structured more or less as a countdown to the day in 2010 when Wright came out very publicly — with a tell-all autobiography, a People magazine profile and appearances on “Oprah” and “The Today Show” — after months of carefully coordinated planning that, the filmmakers indicate, was only slightly less meticulous than the run-up to D-Day.

Not surprisingly, Wright occasionally has second thoughts and worries about the reactions of her fans and music-industry associates. “Wish Me Away” is especially intriguing as it offers behind-the-scenes glimpses of Wright seeking spiritual guidance and professional pointers during the weeks prior to her coming out.

The Rev. C. Welton Gaddy, the avuncular president of Interfaith Alliance, is warmly supportive, but warns of a possible backlash from conservative Christian country fans. (“There’s nobody quite as mean,” he says only half-jokingly, “as people being mean for Jesus.”) Media-training specialist Howard Bragman coaches Wright in the fine art of finessing interviews. At all times, he cautions, words must be carefully chosen; for example, she should “acknowledge,” not “admit,” she is gay.

Wright proves to be an apt pupil, but reserves the right to reject certain lessons. While recording an entry for her video diary, she’s furiously foul-mouthed as she recalls the comments of an image-conscious book editor, an ardent feminist who criticized Wright for having posed in revealing attire for promotional photos and videos. Being gay, Wright defiantly insists, doesn’t mean you can’t be sexy.

Pic earns points for its evenhandedness while frequently emphasizing that members and fans of the country-music scene are neither more nor less homophobic than the general U.S. populace. In this regard, figures such as famed music producer Rodney Crowell and Oak Ridge Boys vocalist Richard Sterban come across as admirably accepting.

If the filmmakers’ overall depiction of Wright borders on the hagiographic, the singer herself doesn’t shy away from self-criticism. At one point, Wright admits to being thoroughly dishonest with herself and Brad Paisley when she pursued, then abruptly ended, a high-profile relationship with the country superstar.

Tech values are first-rate. Pic wisely includes enough musicvideo clips to prove that the lady really can sing — and, yes, look very sexy while doing so.

Wish Me Away

Docu

Production: A TVgals Media production. Produced by Bobbie Birleffi, Beverly Kopf. Executive producers, Rhonda Eiffe, Richard Bever. Co-executive producers, Fletcher Foster, Laverne Berry, Wendy L. Wood. Directed by Bobbie Birleffi, Beverly Kopf.

Crew: Camera (color, HD), Paul Mailman; editor, Lisa Palattella; music supervisor, Palattella; sound, Bill Marino; graphic designer, Yorgo Alexopoulos; associate producers, William Kapfer, Ellen Krantz. Reviewed on DVD, Houston, June 18, 2011. (In Nashville, Los Angeles film festivals; Frameline, Outfest.) Running time: 96 MIN.

With: With: Chely Wright, Stan Wright, Jennifer Wright, Russell Carter, Rodney Crowell, Victoria Wilson, C. Welton Gaddy, Don Cusic, Howard Bragman, Richard Sterban, Meredith Vieira, Natalie Morales.

More Film

  • Photo taken July 18, 2019, from

    Japan's Kyoto Animation Suffers Deadly Arson Attack

    An arson attack on the Kyoto Animation company on Thursday morning has injured several dozen people and killed at least one. Emergency services in Kyoto City received a call around 10.35 a.m. local time reporting an explosion on the first floor. The blaze quickly spread across the whole of the three story building. According to [...]

  • sith trooper

    Sith Trooper Revealed From 'Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker'

    “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” revealed a new storm trooper uniform Wednesday at San Diego Comic Con as part of a special exhibit celebrating the evolution of the storm trooper design. Dubbed the Sith trooper, the new uniform sports all-red armor plates with a matching red and black blaster. Also decorating the armor is [...]

  • Dunkirk

    Harry Styles Is the Perfect Prince Eric; Why He'd Rock 'Little Mermaid' Role

    Could Harry Styles be the perfect Prince Eric? One day after the announcement that the One Direction star is “in early negotiations to play the iconic ‘Little Mermaid’ role,” the internet exploded with speculation as to how he would portray the object of Ariel’s affections. “I can see lots of reasons why Harry is perfect,” [...]

  • The Lion King

    Film News Roundup: PETA Sponsors Rescued Lion in Jon Favreau's Name

    In today’s film news roundup, PETA honors Jon Favreau for “The Lion King,” “Tigers Are Not Afraid” gets a theatrical release, a Kirk Franklin biopic is in development and “The Sixth Sense” gets an anniversary showing in Philadelphia. HONOR The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is sponsoring a rescued lion to honor director [...]

  • Tokyo Director-in-Focus-at-Japan-Now

    Nobuhiko Obayashi set as Japanese Director in Focus at Tokyo Film Festival

    Indie director, Nobuhiko Obayashi will be feted as the director in focus at the Japan Now section of this year’s Tokyo International Film Festival. The festival will give a world premiere to his “Labyrinth of Cinema.” Supporting his art by shooting commercials, Obayashi is an indie whose dreamy works have influenced numerous other directors in [...]

  • Jimmi Simpson Joins Russell Crowe Movie

    Jimmi Simpson Joins Russell Crowe Thriller 'Unhinged' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Jimmi Simpson will play a key role in “Unhinged,” Variety has learned. He joins an impressive cast that includes Oscar-winner Russell Crowe and Caren Pistorius. Solstice Studios is producing the psychological thriller, which is currently filming in New Orleans. “Unhinged” centers on a woman named Rachel (Pistorius), who leans on her horn at the wrong [...]

  • David Crosby

    David Crosby Says New Documentary 'Remember My Name' Is Like 'Being Naked in Public’

    “It’s not easy. It’s hard being naked in public,” David Crosby, the legendary troubadour of classic rock, reflected at Tuesday night’s New York City premiere of “David Crosby: Remember My Name.” “I don’t know what to do here. There’s no guitars, no drums,” he laughed. Directed by newcomer A.J. Eaton and produced by the legendary [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content