Arts & Entertainment, Books

‘Friends, Lovers, and the Big Terrible Thing’ is a moving, yet disappointing memoir

When thinking of Matthew Perry, it is nearly impossible to separate him from his popular role on the hit TV show Friends. While his name has largely been synonymous with Chandler Bing, it also is associated with a much more stigmatized term—addict. In Friends, Lovers, and the Big Terrible Thing, the Canadian-American actor holds nothing back when chronicling his mental health challenges. He shares his crushing abandonment issues with unabated honesty and doesn’t shy away from the mistakes he has made in his life. It is no easy feat to admit to suffering from addiction, let alone delving into the difficult process of getting clean, all while living in the public eye. Though there are many things to take away from this memoir, we cannot ignore one statement—could he be any stronger?

Throughout the memoir, Perry emphasizes time and time again that he should be dead. The actor recounts his copious use of narcotics, opiates, and alcohol, along with many trial-and-error stints in different rehabilitation centres. Considering the media’s distortion of mental illness, Perry’s frank retelling of his substance use disorder remains an incredibly courageous act. Given the severity of his affliction, the fact that he is still working towards self-improvement today proves that he is a fighter at heart.

Naturally, this cycle of rehab and relapse was not the only one Perry became trapped in. He recalls letting fear get the best of him and destroying multiple relationships, including his romances with actresses Julia Roberts and Lizzy Caplan. Readers have a front-row seat to the unreliability in his love life, and the author divulges many regrets regarding his failed romances.

Unfortunately, Perry’s acting credentials and flawless comedic timing do not equate to great writing. The book reads very disjointedly, with no discernible timeline. Between paragraphs, Perry jumps from his childhood in Ottawa to his time filming The Whole Nine Yards to his experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic, all without warning. Readers find it difficult to determine whether Matthew was 15 or 50 in certain scenes, and the confusion is only cleared up by several overt contextual cues. Additionally, his complaint of making only $50,000 for a project after making millions per episode on Friends seems in poor taste. 

Perhaps the most surprising part of the autobiography is the sheer amount of Canadian content: Matthew was born in Montreal, and he even references McGill University. He reveals his quotidian life in Ottawa, including his surprising connection to the late Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau and his son Justin, whom he claims to have once physically fought. Sadly, the finer details of this altercation remain shrouded in mystery.

Interestingly enough, Friends does not play as big of a role in Perry’s narrative as fans might think. He does talk about how the TV show changed his life—especially his bank account—but audiences looking for hot gossip from the set will be sorely disappointed. He speaks about his former castmates and crew members with fondness. The only tumultuous memories included are those caused by Perry himself—he recalls falling asleep during a scene and having to be nudged awake by Matt LeBlanc—which are interesting but not buzzworthy. All that to say, Perry still engages his audience. His distinct voice manages to captivate readers, even if it is being used to take strange digs at Keanu Reeves that he refuses to elaborate on.

Fundamentally, Friends, Lovers, and the Big Terrible Thing is exactly what you would expect from Matthew Perry: An exhausting and heartbreaking book that blends comedy and brutal honesty. Even so, the writing comes off a tad lacklustre and inconsistent throughout the narrative. He’s a talented, but broken man, and he appears to be taking his time putting himself back together. Even if he can be out of touch or self-centred, his frankness and vulnerability are brave and commendable. So whether you love or hate him, let’s wish Ms. Chanandler Bong the best.

Friends, Lovers and the Big Terrible Thing by Matthew Perry is available wherever books are sold.

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