In 'Amy Fisher: My Story,' taboos and tuneups a teen would kill for

December 28, 1992|By David Zurawik | David Zurawik,Television Critic

In "Amy Fisher: My Story," the high school student who has come to be known as the Long Island Lolita is asked what she sees in an auto mechanic twice her age.

"We have great sex and he fixes my car," she says without hesitation.

That's the nearest thing to a satisfying answer viewers are going to find in the NBC docudrama that airs at 9 tonight on WMAR (Channel 2). And those viewers who pay attention to disclaimers might not even be sure there was any sex -- let alone how good it was -- in the real-life case that this show purports to dramatize.

But explanations and answers are not the kind of satisfaction NBC is selling tonight. "Amy Fisher: My Story" is one of those made-for-TV numbers that has a lot to do with motel sex, fantasies, violence and the violation of cultural taboos, and very little to do with clarifying what really happened in the headline-grabbing criminal case. This one runs the gamut from homeroom to herpes, SATs to escort-service sex, after-school-at-the-mall to attempted murder.

For those not familiar with the real-life details of the Amy Fisher case, here's what it's about:

In May 1992, Mary Jo Buttafuoco was shot in the head on the front porch of her Long Island, N.Y., home. Shortly after the shooting, police arrested Amy Fisher, a high school senior. The teen-ager admitted to the shooting, telling authorities that she did it because she had been romantically involved with the woman's husband, Joey Buttafuoco, for more than a year. She said she wanted the woman out of the way so that she and the 36-year-old mechanic could be together.

NBC's version of those events, which came to light only six months ago, is the first to be broadcast. CBS and ABC have their own Amy Fisher docudramas scheduled to air next month.

Perhaps the most important thing to know about tonight's film is the information contained in a statement that appears briefly during the opening credits: "This is Amy Fisher's story -- her version of the truth. She says she had a partner in crime, the man she claims was her lover, Joey Buttafuoco. He has consistently denied sexual involvement with her and knowledge of the criminal activities you will see portrayed in this film. Only they know what really happened."

Excuse me? Only they know what really happened? Think about that for a minute. For my money, it's one of the great docudrama disclaimers of all time, and suggests the dangerous and exploitative blending of fact and fiction that can occur in this form of entertainment.

And the "drama" part is not much better than the "docu" aspect. The film is built around the hokey device of Fisher (Noelle Parker) telling her story in flashback to a tape recorder as she sits in her jail cell after being convicted. The only thing missing is a visit from the warden accompanied by the prison priest or rabbi.

The flashbacks mainly alternate between scenes of Fisher at home having problems with her parents and Fisher at motels having sex with Buttafuoco. Ed Marinaro, the former football player, plays Buttafuoco. Compared to the rest of the cast, he seems like Laurence Olivier.

Dramatically, the best thing about the film is a script that does manage to see the world from a teen-ager's point of view. The real Amy Fisher is serving five to 15 years for reckless assault in the shooting of Mary Jo Buttafuoco. Ms. Buttafuoco is permanently disabled with a bullet lodged in her head. Police have declined to file any charges against Joey Buttafuoco.

That last fact might raise questions in some viewers' minds about a film that basically says it's all Joey Buttafuoco's fault. But, like I said, NBC isn't selling answers tonight.

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