DVD Review: The Amy Fisher Story | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Friday, February 28th, 2020  

The Amy Fisher Story

Studio: Kino Lorber

Jan 29, 2020 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

Anyone who's old (and gossip-hungry) enough to remember the story of "Long Island Lolita" Amy Fisher and her sketchy 30-something paramour Joey Buttafuoco will likely also remember that three of the four major networks made TV movies about the scandal back in 1993 (shockingly, Fox sat this one out, something my memory had recorded incorrectly). All are fine pieces of '90s camp (the CBS version had Alyssa Milano as Fisher, not to mention Lawrence Tierney as Buttafuoco's dad!), but The Amy Fisher Story, ABC's entry in this race to the bottom, is undoubtedly the pièce de résistance. Truly, it could only have been more perfect if John Waters had directed it himself.

Drew Barrymore, still in the "troubled teenage hellcat" phase of her career, dives deep into the Amy Fisher role here, infusing her depiction with overwrought teen melodrama and unmitigated sleaziness (she'd had practice the previous year in another jailbait potboiler, Poison Ivy). Fortunately for us, she was working with the juiciest version of the story: where the CBS version tells the story from the Buttafuocos' perspective and paints Fisher as a one-dimensional harlot, and the NBC/Fisher version depicts Fisher as an innocent kid who got in over her head, this version of the story was sold to ABC by the New York Post's Amy Pagnozzi, a reporter who covered the story. This gives The Amy Fisher Story license to explore the case in all its prurience, without owing credence to anyone directly involved.

The filmmakers take this license and run with it. Screenwriter Janet Brownell infuses the story with Pagnozzi's feminist social critique as much as '90s TV would allow, while director Andy Tennant (Sweet Home Alabama) debatably undercuts said feminism with some surprisingly salacious scenes which were cut for American TV (Europeans, as usual, took these scenes in stride, bless their hearts). It makes for a fascinating juxtaposition.

Though Barrymore is certainly the scenery-chewer here, the rest of the cast does their best with the material. Linda Darlow is perfect as Fisher's doting mother (her last scene in the film features, perhaps, the best acting in the whole thing), and Laurie Paton steals every scene she's in as Mary Jo Buttafuoco. Tony Denison is not the most entertaining Joey Buttafuoco (that honor goes to Jack Scalia in the NBC version), but he holds his own. Perhaps unsurprisingly given the story's source, Harley Jane Kozak is given an unduly meaty role as Pagnozzi, but aside from some clunky exposition, she does do an admirable job of setting the tone.

This DVD edition adds little to the film, but the transfer is perfectly serviceable. Just having this gem readily available in a physical form, safe from whoever keeps a litigious eye on these things on YouTube, will be plenty for anyone who'd be interested in the first place.

Lest you think I'm taking a TV movie too seriously at this point, please know that I'm judging The Amy Fisher Story on its own level (trash) and merits (it's fun). While it may not compete on a lot of other cinematic levels, it's damn near the top of the heap when judged on its own terms.



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