The Media Sensation That Was ‘The Amy Fisher Story’

by Rachel Bellwoar

Before OJ Simpson, Amy Fisher was a huge media sensation. And you can’t expect to be clearheaded about a case like hers less than a year after she was convicted for aggravated assault. When the first TV movie came out (NBC’s Amy Fisher: My Story), it hadn’t been a month since she’d been sentenced with jailtime in November of 1992. The Amy Fisher Story and Casualties of Love: The Long Island Lolita Story shared the same premiere night (the former on ABC, the latter on CBS) just a few weeks later: January 3rd, 1993.

These movies came out when they did because the networks wanted to use the popularity of Fisher’s case to get ratings. Most people would’ve already been familiar with the story and objectivity and distance weren’t the goals, but they did take different points of view on the shooting. Amy Fisher: My Story was based on Amy Fisher’s first memoir (though, after listening to film historian Sally Christie’s commentary for The Amy Fisher Story, it sounds like she had more input with the second memoir). Casualties of Love took the side of the Buttafuocos, and then there was The Amy Fisher Story, which is about to receive a DVD re-release from Kino Lorber.
The Amy Fisher Story, which stars Drew Barrymore as the teenage Amy, falls somewhere in between My Story and Casualties in terms of point of view. It doesn’t take the negative press Fisher got at face value, but it also doesn’t make excuses for her actions because Amy did shoot Mary Jo Buttafuoco. That point is never contested. What is, or was, unclear at the time (though later he was convicted on a statutory rape charge) was whether Joey Buttafuoco, Mary Jo’s husband, had been having an affair with Amy. Joey vehemently denied the relationship, so it was his word against hers, but The Amy Fisher Story uses the character of Amy Pagnozzi (Harley Jane Kozak) as a buffer. A real journalist who served as a consultant on the film, Pagnozzi’s dialogue (the screenplay was written by Janet Brownell) can be deliberately contrarian and not very subtle. This is especially noticeable during a conversation with Amy’s mother (Linda Darlow), where every line Pagnozzi says is the opposite of what Amy’s mother’s just said.
Unsurprisingly, a lot of new information has come to light over the years and Christie’s commentary fills you in on everything that’s happened. She also talks about the cast (like how Barrymore played a lot of troubled girls in the 1990s) and is able to provide more context on some of the scenes that go unexplained in the film, like a quick shot of Amy visiting the doctor before going to see Mary Jo (she left school early by pretending to be sick).
If there’s one thing that doesn’t get discussed as much (and Christie lets you know at the beginning what she’s going to be talking about) it’s Andy Tennant’s direction. Christie offers some background on him (most interestingly, that he went on to direct rom-coms), but leaves it to the viewer to notice his attempts to go beyond the usual TV movie filmmaking. There are some really eye-catching visuals, like using a sink for a transition or switching to black and white for a moment, as the film jumps around in time. There’s also the niggling question of why “Amy” on Amy’s car is spelled “Aimee,” which Christie’s commentary doesn’t answer.
The Amy Fisher Story is available on DVD starting December 17th from Kino Lorber.

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