There’s no shortage of musical biopics; the lives of Ritchie Valens, Buddy Holly, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, and (most recently) Frankie Valli and James Brown have all gotten the Hollywood treatment. In many ways, Coal Miner’s Daughter follows the same formula as many of these, depicting Loretta Lynn’s early poverty, her rise from obscurity, and her marriage and drug issues that luckily did not destroy her like so many others. The script even features a number of lines that could apply to other biopics, such as “Getting’ here’s one thing. Bein’ here’s another” and “If you slow down, they forget about you.” Despite the danger of falling into the not-yet-established clichés, the film succeeds mainly due to the pitch-perfect acting and the endearing way of life shown with both bad and good alike.
After playing a telekinetic misfit in Carrie and a country friend of John-Boy’s on two episodes of The Waltons, Sissy Spacek found her most acclaimed, Oscar-winning role as Loretta Lynn and was specifically chosen for the film by Lynn herself. The fact that Spacek sang all of her songs (as did Beverly D’Angelo as Patsy Cline) raises the film above dubbed biopics and makes it more fascinating to watch. Other films like The Buddy Holly Story and Walk the Line have done the same, but Spacek has a heart and an unaffected earnestness that sets her apart. Tommy Lee Jones as Doo portrays both his faults and his unabashed confidence in his wife with likable pushiness, particularly when he irritably growls “like a big ol’ bar.” Though his attraction to a young teenager is potentially creepy, their relationship is sympathetic and affectionate enough to make them a realistic married couple. The other actors, including Levon Helm as Loretta’s father, are all well-cast, but the leading pair is the heart of the film.
There aren’t many biopics on my list, but Coal Miner’s Daughter is one of my favorites. With its classic country soundtrack and a realistic rise to fame (with only a minor fall), it’s an endearing and straightforward look at a down-to-earth legend.Best line: (Doo, after complaining about Loretta’s uselessness) “What are you doin’ in this bottom, anyway?” (Loretta) “I came to see the doctor.” (Doo) “What for, you sick?” (Loretta) “Yeah, I’m sick all right; I’m goin’ to have a baby.” (Doo, laughing) “You know, Loretta, we may have found something you know how to do!”
Artistry: 9 Characters/Actors: 10 Entertainment: 9 Visual Effects: N/A Originality: 8 Watchability: 9 Other (country soundtrack and Spacek’s actual singing): +6 Other (language): -1 TOTAL: 50 out of 60
Next: #118 – E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial
© 2014 S. G. Liput
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