Alibi V.24 No.13 • March 26-April 1, 2015 

Book Review

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Inanity

Find It In Everything: Photographs by Drew Barrymore

Drew Barrymore
Hachette Book Group
hardcover
photography
$18

The shortcomings of Drew Barrymore's Find It In Everything emerge before the reader even cracks the spine. The cover is waxy and white. Unless you live a world without dirt, this novelty book has a shelf life of about 30 seconds. But Find It In Everything suffers from a deeper, more intrinsic malady. Its pathology lies in celebration of mediocrity and cloying sentimentality.

It takes a good eye to find hearts where … someone put them.
It takes a good eye to find hearts where … someone put them.
If you remember Barrymore's Letterman-flashing hippie persona, you may also know about her obsession with flowers—especially daisies. In Find It In Everything, Barrymore indulges her other visual fetish: hearts. The intro offers an explanation for this cordate compulsion: “I have always loved hearts. The way that one continuous line accomplishes the most extraordinary thing—it conveys love. … I love this shape so much that I started seeing it everywhere. … I started taking pictures of these things, because it was a way to capture moments of magic.”

Born into the biz, Barrymore's childhood stardom led to an Odyssean adolescence. Her first foray into the written word was 1990's memoir Little Girl Lost, co-written with Todd Gold; it poignantly related the then-14-year-old actress' “life story” of fame, addiction and recovery. She has thrived ever after. Adored by millions for her Drew-ness, she directs and produces at Flower Films—think Never Been Kissed, Charlie's Angels and Donnie Darko—and heads up a cosmetics company called Flower Beauty. Barrymore is now a 40-year-old wife and mother, and she deliberately projects these aspects of her identity onto her personal brand. Perhaps this self-portrait as “photographer” lends her brands boho chic. Whatever the motivation, finding-it-in-everything was ill-advised.

Truly, the world is a magical place.
Truly, the world is a magical place.
The problem isn't the premise—our very human compulsion to extract meaning from chaos. Pareidolia is the psychological phenomenon wherein a random stimulus is perceived as significant. Examples include the man in the moon, seeing animals in clouds and hearing secret messages when The White Album or “Stairway to Heaven” are played backwards. In this case, both the medium and the message are simply: ❤.

Why do I suspect her assistant took this one?
Why do I suspect her assistant took this one?
Find It In Everything swims in the shallow end, and Barrymore's innate celebrity fails to elevate the effort. The photographic and literary execution here is awash in lack. Amateurish photos are offset by vapid, folksy ramblings. This stuff reads like a cutesy counterpoint to fellow rom-com alum Matthew McConaughey's commercials for Lincoln Motors. Drew with the bent straw wrapper “find[s] hope where [she] least expects it.” Drew with a tea bag realizes “it [is] going to be a good day.” Drew with the water stain, the torn T-shirt, the refracted light, the cats and the dogs, the tattoos, the bitten apple, the carpet … and hearts. And more hearts.

Cross my heart and hope to die. For realz.
Cross my heart and hope to die. For realz.
I am not a heart-hating shrew. But the vast majority of hearts “found” by Barrymore are both man-made and shot with a minimum of compositional sense. A lack of attention to basic photographic principles makes me wonder if these hearts may have been better off lost. Depth, symmetry, white balance, a defined point of view and framing are all in scarce supply. But the underwhelming photos—a plastic bread-clip, the curve of a wrought-iron chair, the dregs of a pho bowl, textures from the urban jungle, the depths of a bathroom mirror and so on—abound. Barrymore's heart might be in the right place but Find It In Everything proves she's just not that into photography.

Set the controls for the heart of the sun … I can’t look anymore.
Set the controls for the heart of the sun … I can’t look anymore.
[click to enlarge]