Review: Phoenix Rising, Evan Rachel Wood’s story

Evan Rachel Wood in Phoenix Rising

Phoenix Rising uses two feature length episodes to document the story of Evan Rachel Wood and her abuser, rocker Marilyn Manson. It’s very frank, horrific, and hard to watch, but necessary. Amy Berg directed.

Phoenix Rising jumps around in time. I wasn’t always sure what order things happened in. It begins with Evan Rachel Wood and her artist/activist friend Illma Gore pulling together documents, videos, photos, texts, and other evidence that could make a legal case against Manson.

The story describes the way Wood was groomed and abused by the much older man. It details her efforts as an activist to get the California legislature to extend the statute of limitations on sexual abuse to a longer time. It looks at Wood’s relationship with Jamie Bell and their child. It examines Wood’s childhood and family relationships. And it ends with Wood naming Manson as her abuser publicly.

A helpful part of the documentary was the detail about the way an abuser grooms, manipulates, and controls their victims. Wood testified before Congress about what happened to her (without naming names). Other women who Manson had abused recognized who she meant and also came forward. One of the most powerful parts of the documentary was the women sitting and talking with each other about what they’d survived.

From the way the documentary was put together and from the scenes where Wood talked to the camera about her situation, I felt like she made two decisions initially. She decided to build a case so she could name Manson and to make a documentary about her experience and progress toward wholeness.

The courage to escape and then to admit in public what had happened deserves praise, for Wood and for all the women who spoke up. It’s very clear in the doc how difficult it is to do. It’s so important to other survivors. It’s also important to put the information out to the public about the techniques an abuser uses so more young girls can be aware of them before it’s too late.

One of the things Manson did was get her addicted to drugs. She never mentioned how she managed to get off drugs. I wanted to know that. She managed to keep acting while she was with Manson – was she on drugs in those films? When she left Manson for the last time, two months later she was with Jamie Bell – did she get clean somewhere in there?

Wood was trapped in his house, but somehow let out to make movies. She mentioned working on several during her time with him. I wanted Wood to say something about the film Allure she made in 2017. In Allure Wood played the predator. In an interview at the time, she said,

It was a roller coaster to be on the other side of it, to think about the people that I knew — the gaslighters, the abusers — and try to put that into play. Trying to not let people off of the hook but to humanize them, which I think was important. And it was important for me to not make Laura too sympathetic because what she does is wrong and she should be in jail. It’s statutory rape. It’s abuse.

Men like Marilyn Manson are protected by those around them. They make money and no one wants to stop the flow of dough. No one speaks up to defend the women who get abused by such men. That’s why serial abusers get away with it again and again. That’s why women like Evan Rachel Wood who speak up for better laws are so important. They should be believed and predatory men should be in jail – and stay in jail.

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