Screen goddess Grier reflects on her life as an Army brat and showbiz icon, to middling effect.
The author recounts her rural, peripatetic childhood, marred by two horrific rapes and her parents’ divorce, in clear, lucid prose that promises compelling anecdotes and insights regarding her career as a cult “blaxploitation” movie icon. Unfortunately, Grier glosses over the productions of such deathless classics as Coffy, Foxy Brown and The Big Doll House, offering only perfunctory, generic observations about the films and milieu that made her a household name. Instead, the author concentrates on her personal relationships—engaging stuff when the memories involve the likes of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Richard Pryor, and Freddie Prinze, less so when she laments her breakups with “civilians” and problems with various family members. Grier has had her share of bad luck with men, including Abdul-Jabbar’s increasing dedication to Islam and embracing of anti-woman conventions, which ended a long and previously fulfilling union, while Pryor and Prinze flamboyantly self-destructed with drugs. Grier also survived a serious bout with cancer, and has much to say on the subject of racism in America, sadly none of it particularly interesting. The author’s reluctance to delve deeply into her acting work becomes increasingly frustrating as the memoir plods on. She briefly discusses Quentin Tarantino’s rehearsal-heavy technique while discussing her late-career triumph Jackie Brown, fleetingly mentioning co-star Robert Forster, with whom she created one of modern cinema’s most affecting and charming later-in-life romances. On her Showtime series The L Word, Grier deigns only to remark on the importance of the subject matter and how terrific and supportive the cast was. She also describes a wig worn on the show as “The Beast,” endowing it with more personality than any of the members of that wonderfully supportive cast.
Grier’s iconic force fails to translate to the page—a disappointment for fans of her unforgettable performances and reign as the queen of blaxploitation.