27 October 2016
‘Wildflower’ is the 2015 memoir by award-wining actress, by Drew Barrymore.
I’ve found myself in intermittent reading-slumps a lot this year. Sometimes they span a couple of days, or a couple of weeks but I’ve even gone on a month-long bookish drought this year, and mostly because I’m working on projects that are exciting and fun and taking up all my bookish energies! So I wanted to read a book that could be a bit of a palate-cleanser … outside of my usual scope, something I can pretty much guarantee will amuse me and be something I can put down and come back to with long lags in-between. That book has proven to be ‘Wildflower’.
I love Drew Barrymore – who doesn’t? She’s not so much the cute but troubled E.T. child to me and my generation, but I know her as the kick-butt Charlie’s Angel who told a room full of bad guys that; “By the time this is over, every one of you is going to be face-down on the floor, and I’m going to moonwalk out of here.” Or she’s Josie “Grossie” Geller from the (greatest) 1999 movie 'Never Been Kissed', standing on the pitcher’s mound waiting for her moment and man. She’s the real Cinderella in 'Ever After', who saved herself – thank you very much! Or she’s the woman tearfully introducing herself in the mirror as ‘Julia Guglia’ in 'The Wedding Singer', and discovering that true love is giving up the window seat on a plane. Basically, I know the Drew who has made a career out of playing and being the woman that everyone wants to be best friends with …
‘Wildflower’ totally leans into Drew’s infectious likability and aspirations. There’s not a whole lot in here that delves into the darker periods of her life … including being institutionalised as a preteen for drugs and alcohol abuse, emancipated at the age of 14 (and figuring out how leftovers and washing machines work), the intermittent appearances of her hippie-unstable estranged father… and probably because she’s very upfront about writing this book for her two girls to read one day, she chooses the sunshine and silver-linings over the nittier and grittier, which may be a let-down for some who would prefer to know those in’s and out’s of her life.
But for me – I loved reading about her growing up in LA (with these total Francesca Lia Block/ 'Weetzie Bat' feels!) and the trickles of information she has about her family of thespians, including "The Profile" John Barrymore … she may not lean into the darker parts of her history, but she does say that she supports and loves her mother, and it’s interesting to learn of her mother’s background – she was born in a displaced persons camp in Brannenburg, West Germany, to Hungarian World War II refugees.
When she goes into her growing up in the 90s (when she was at her most exhibitionist, seemingly wild-child) it’s kind of nice to read about the oddball family she was amassing behind-the-scenes, and people who she’s still friends with now and built a fantastic production company with;
That’s what we did. It was Los Angeles, and we had a lot of friends, and all of them were at the beginning of their exciting lives too. Some of the coolest filmmakers and the biggest movie stars would come hang at our house, but they hadn’t become those things yet. We were all in the incubation process and in the last carefree times of our lives. We were human Polaroids slowly developing into what other people would see, but for now we were just scrappy kids in no rush to grow up.
I will admit that this memoir isn’t overly groundbreaking, and it’s probably of such little interest to anyone who isn’t a total Drew fan (duh!) … probably a lot of the book’s appeal is just getting to see behind the Hollywood curtain, and discovering that Drew Barrymore is exactly as fictional best-friend worthy as you’d always expected. My favourite chapter is her delving into post-'Charlie’s Angels' media tour, when she, Lucy Lu and Cameron Diaz were roped into doing a 3-day survival course as part of the publicity trail. Drew (who was also the film’s producer, and weighed down by stress ahead of release) was not the out-doorsy, go-get-em’ type duing the trip, thereby making her my patronus … And she’s just plain funny. Of course she is – humour is her forte, and it’s a total kick to see that she’s just as clumsy and sarcastic and hilarious in real-life as she is on screen;
“OK, now your turn Cameron!” A born athlete from Long Beach, California, she made her way down like the girl we all know and love. Cool, funny, capable. Everyone roared with delight.
Then came a halfhearted to me “OK, now your turn” – no name, just “c’mon, let’s get this over with and get the unfun one down the rock.” And so I did. And while I was clinging for dear life, my foot slipped and I fell a good ten feet, and then I snapped with a hard jerk as my tether caught, and I was just swinging in midair, back and forth like a stupid metronome in unflattering khakis.
This wasn’t a groundbreaking, all-time-favourite read … and there’s a little tinge of sadness to some chapters on her family, given that she and Will Kopelman announced their split this year … but if nothing else, ‘Wildflower’ is a celebration of how many times Drew Barrymore has picked herself up, dusted herself off, learnt to enjoy her own company and keep on keeping on. It was cathartic and enjoyable, and made me want to pull out all my Drew Barrymore DVDs for a binge-watch… and solidified my feelings that we would be insta-BFFs should we ever meet in real life. So, there’s that.