[Review] - I Don't Know What You Know Me From: Confessions Of A Co-Star, By Judy Greer

If you've spent more than a little time on this site, you might have noticed I mention Judy Greer at a greater frequency than most other actors. I'm a fan of her (enormous) filmography, and her ability to, as she describes it, "diversify" her career. I'll always be an advocate of the importance of supporting and character actors, and she has proven to be one of the best of her generation. As she points out numerous times (and as the title remarks), she has been in such a range of roles that it can be difficult to recall exactly what it was that you remember her from (in the interest of quickening her "fan profiling," I fall into the Arrested Development/Californication/Archer group).

This, her first book, is equally difficult to pin down. It is being touted as a biography, and there are elements to that, but it is far from the standard to be considered entirely thus. It could be a self help book, and certainly takes on that feel towards the end, but the impression there is that the book would provide some help for yourself, and this doesn't really do that. In the end, the book is really nothing more than a series of meandering anecdotes whose purpose is occasionally unclear, whose wit is never pervasive, but whose style is loose enough that you can make your way through in one sitting.

Hit the jump for the brief review.

The book is a series of essays, broken into three sections: her pre-Hollywood life, her career, and her personal emotional life. These divisions are largely illusionary, as each essay has a tendency to sway back and forth across these lines. Straight away, it was obvious that the book was in need of a stronger editorial hand. The biggest issue with the book, that is never overcomes, is that it lacks focus. It isn't a celebrity gossip biography, for which I'm grateful. But when Greer states in the introduction that she won't be listing her credits within the text, she isn't lying. There are occasional and passing mentions to a few of her works, but the book doesn't concern itself with the usual celebrity biography set up of describing how she came into a particular role, or what the process is like for her (I would have been appreciative of a break down, form her perspective, of the challenges of voice work vs. screen work). Instead, the essays focus mostly on her emotional states during various times in her life (spoiler: she cries, by her own admission, a lot).

The more I read, the more I began to suspect that despite my appreciation of her work, that this book wasn't intended for me. But the longer I read, I couldn't determine exactly who it would be intended for. It isn't a woman's empowerment book, with talk of healthy emotions and balanced lifestyles. Nor is it intended on the cinephile, looking for delicious background on cherished projects (it isn't a technical manual for character actors). The best I could come up with is that it was meant for Judy Greer. The "essays" read more like diary entries, complete with personal asides and reactions. They also struggle to stay on their intended topic, with rare exceptions (like the motorcycle Ashton Kutcher story), and tend to go off in tangents. Again, the presence of a stronger editorial would have helped here. Her essays tend to lack thesis, reading more like stream of consciousness therapy sessions with improved sentence structure. And her conclusions never seem organic, more tacked on and overly dramatic, as though she were desperately trying to find some greater meaning in what she had just went on about.

What works is her presence. Because her style is so meandering, it feels very conversational. The book lacks a coherent one, but that works in the favour of her literary voice. Once you get past the lack of clear intent, it reads very smoothly. Greer is endearing, with her flighting between emotional states. To read the books seems very much like would it would be like to sit across the table and listen to her rant on about her day, and I can understand the appeal of that. What is abundantly clear from her remembrances is that she is an aggressively normal person. Her role as the preeminent "hey, it's that guy!" actor in Hollywood has not isolated her in a sheltered bubble of faux-aristocratic pampering. She approaches her life in what seems to be a very blue collar, grounded way. And, as a result of the lack of intent on the part of the narrative, she never comes off seeming as just one thing. When she's funny, she funny (and occasionally laugh out loud funny, though never as biting as she claims she is). When she's clearly emotionally affected by something, it reads that way. And when she's petty and egotistical, it is evident. There are essays that, while you can understand what her intention might have been, simply don't work because of their self centered or self congratulatory focus.

There needed to be someone, somewhere along the line, giving this book more direction. Whether it be from Greer herself, or from someone at the publishing company giving her clearer instruction as to how to writer (it's her first time, so her unease can be forgiven to a point). If there had been a clearer straight line to draw down the centre of the narrative, perhaps the book would feel tighter, or be more impactful. As it stands, it is a curiosity that never really pays off. But she was really good in that film that time, that's what's important.
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About MR. Clark

Adopting the descriptor of "successfully unpublished author", MR. Clark began writing things on the internet in 2012, which he believed to be an entirely reputable and civilized place to find and deliver information. He regrets much.


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