Two recent film star biographies and one brand new one are the good, the bad and the ugly - but not in the ways you might imagine.
One is from a Hollywood great known to be a thoroughly good person and for playing thoroughly good parts, yet her biography is the ‘bad’.
Another is by a hugely famous actress who has starred in many major movies but has been ‘bad’ in some aspects of her personal life. Hers is the ‘ugly’.
And, the most recent book from a massive movie star at first describes what some might view as some ugly sides of his childhood, but in truth they are loving, full of meaning. His autobiography rapidly becomes innovative and highly entertaining, almost a self-help guide and is definitely the ‘good’.
Julie Andrews, Demi Moore and Matthew McConaughey – three A List movie stars, three big-selling books in three very different styles.
Just so there’s no mistake, all three books are very enjoyable in their own ways and let you in on three incredible lives with incredible back-stories to their personal journeys and eventual success.
But each book does so on different terms and leaves the reader with very different after-tastes.
Julie Andrews’ Home Work – the second instalment of her memoirs after Home, her first about her early life – tells of the star’s hard-fought path to fame and her amazing Hollywood years. Child star, My Fair Lady, Mary Poppins, The Sound of Music, Star!, Victor/Victoria… it’s all there. But, in many ways, it isn’t.
Home Work gives you the overstory, the overview, with enough details thrown in to make it seem like Julie is telling all. But she’s not. You get the tales behind the movies but only the nice ones or the ones that won’t bite. It’s a play-safe, throw in the big names time, no blood on the floor autobiography.
I love Julie Andrews’ films, I’ll watch The Sound of Music anytime, but she’s has always seemed an actress who never lets herself go – always the inner reserve that never comes out. Home Work is like that – it only goes so far. You get the life but it leads you wanting to know the real story to how she’s lived it, so far!
Demi Moore’s Inside Out, on the other hand, tells you a lot of detail. The clashes of home life as a young girl with two forceful characters as parents. The constant worry over her weight, the modelling, the booze, the fame, the drugs, the marriages and the sex.
Demi’s unique selling point for the book is her being 'whored out' by her mother for sex with an older man as a teenager – an ugly side of life, a truly awful experience which would leave life scars on anyone. How amazing for Demi to have gone on to be a major world star in the movies, fight and work herself to the top and stay there for so many years.
The first half at last of the autobiography is told very well – the emotional home life, the flawed yet magnetic parents, how Demi became Demi – and you go with it, you root for her, fascinated and enthralled at how Demi battles through and becomes literally one of the most famous faces on Earth.
But moving into the second half and all the way to the end, the book turns into a tale almost of self-obsession where Demi sees the world - her marriages to Bruce Willis and then to Ashton Kutchner, the later films, the spiritual interests - only through Demi’s eyes. Ultimately, the book becomes a little sickly – it’s her autobiography but somehow there’s just too much of her.
Demi describes her great love and affection for her daughters, she is clearly a devoted ‘mom’ and the relationships between them all run very deep. Yet, even in this section where at one point she needed to focus on her role as a mother, Demi took to drink and drugs. No real reason why is given.
As the first part of the book suggests, Demi Moore is a hugely impressive person – as an actress I have always found her engrossing – and she could have made this an outstanding autobiography if she had continued to write a bit wider than herself. A shame.
Matthew McConaughey’s autobiography Greenlights is equally self-obsessed but at every turn he brings the important people involved in his life into sharp focus and shares the stage with them.
Matthew’s hugely influential parents, his brothers, his friends he met on the way to fame and never forgot, the people he met along the way across the world from Australia to Mali and eventually his wife and adored children. The Hollywood star makes them all stars of his personal tale of a life lived to the full.
Greenlights isn’t so much an autobiography as a self-help and ‘how-to’ live it guide – an approach book as he has called it. All through there are messages to self, bumper stickers, and McConaughey-isms on how to live and be. Hugely entertaining and certainly ‘the good’.
Home Work by Julie Andrews - published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson
Inside Out by Demi Moore - published by Fourth Estate
Greenlights by Matthew McConaughey - published by Headline