Stars, they’re just like us. Right? It’s hard to agree with that sentiment, but the honesty with which Busy Philipps pens her memoir makes it tough to disagree — if only on certain topics.
Any review of a celebrity memoir should note the expectation of the reviewer upon starting the book. Are they anxiously anticipating the gossip that they hope will be dished up in said memoir’s pages? Are they a huge fan of the celebrity, looking for new details about that person’s life that had not been previously divulged? Are they reading the book to learn more about how the star views their own life story?
Prior to starting this book, I didn’t know a lot about Busy Philipps. I watched Freaks and Geeks after it aired, and because of my age I saw her on Dawson’s Creek (obv), and on occasional viewings of Cougar Town, but I’m not familiar with her movies. I DO follow her on Instagram, and I will admit I’ve sent her an admiring DM or two about how happy I am to see that someone famous will post Insta-stories of herself sweating profusely at the gym. #refreshing.
Now that I’ve finished her autobiography, I’m a Busy fan. She doesn’t have her shit together, and isn’t trying to hide that fact. It sounds like her childhood was a little tough, growing up in Arizona and feeling as if she did not fit in with people in her age group. She talks about being raped at the age of 14 and getting pregnant by her boyfriend at age 15. These stories are intimate and painful, including her effort to get her rapist to be her boyfriend (so she wouldn’t have to think of herself as a slut) and her boyfriend’s mother blaming Busy instead of her son for getting pregnant.
These are some nasty stories, and there are more as she gets older. While Busy always wanted to be an actress, it didn’t come easily — her breakout role as a human Barbie doll at a toy convention was fascinating to read about — and as she careened into adulthood, she faced challenges from within her family, the industry, and her group of friends. Sure, the Dawson’s Creek drama was there, as were some tales from her days on set of Freaks and Geeks. Those were the only stories focused on by media outlets when they reviewed her book or interviewed Busy, and she quickly tired of talking about them while promoting her memoir.
Some themes I noticed that carried between the chapters (whose titles share the names of songs) are that Busy was always trying to contain herself, to tamp herself down, to be smaller, to take up less space. Whether that was to please her parents — especially her mother, who always wanted to go be an entertainer in Hollywood but never did — or to make her sister like her more, or to get a man she was into be her boyfriend, or to get a movie role… Busy always thought something was wrong with her personality or her body or her mind until she finally decided she was chasing the wrong goals.
Her relationships with men are terrible to read about, especially the boyfriend who, along with his loser brother, stole the concept for the movie which ended up becoming Blades of Glory and then dropped her story-writing credit after the studio deal was made.
She describes dealing with the housing crisis and suffering financially during the recession in 2008, and how she devalued herself by auditioning for roles she really didn’t want. She is honest about how her marriage suffered greatly in the wake of the birth of their first child, and how her embracing of Instagram’s story feature at its inception was more a way of consoling herself and feeling less lonely in her marriage than of actually liking the medium.
There are a lot of lessons that can be learned from reading this book. It’s not all neatly tied up in a bow, because Busy is still young and presumably has more to learn. Plus, not many things in life CAN be neatly tied up in a bow (this isn’t Hollywood).
She writes very well, especially about her admiration of certain people, such as her bestie Michelle Williams and even her ex-boyfriend Colin Hanks. One of the most moving sections of her book was a description of the days following 9/11, when she was expected to return to set of Dawson’s Creek and considered how silly her job was in the wake of the nightmare the country was suffering through at the time.
In closing, here is one of my favorite lines: “BUT GUESS WHAT? No one is going to tell you all the things you want to hear all the time. You have to know them yourself.”