Friday, November 04, 2005

COAL MINER’S DAUGHTER (1980) -
Michael Apted

You’ve heard the story a million times before, whether it be A Star is Born, Glitter, Eight Mile, Hustle and Flow etc. Girl / Boy / Pimp from the Streets / Sticks / ‘Burbs suddenly finds musical talent and escapes their dreary lives to become a star. Only problem is their boyfriend / girlfriend / best koochie mama suddenly feels left behind in the wings. You know, that same old tune…the pitfalls of overnight success.

Well you made have heard the story before, but you’ve probably never seen it acted this well, pimps or no pimps. Coal Miner’s Daughter is the story of Loretta Lynn (Sissy Spacek) and her rise from a poverty-stricken upbringing in a Kentucky coal mining town to her success as a Grand Ol’ Opry singer, country music superstar and beyond. But, more than that, it’s the story of her relationship with her husband/manager Doolittle (Tommy Lee Jones), the feisty guy who marries her and takes her out of that small Kentucky town at the ripe young age of 14, then encourages her to play music.

Doolittle’s the type of cat that buys his new bride a guitar instead of a wedding ring, simply because it makes him “feel proud of her when he hears he sing to their kids.” Sure, their relationship is headed for rocky times once success hits and Loretta hits the charts. But when all is said and done, their bond stays pure. Doolittle’s love for her is not out of greed or veiled ambition or any other Star 80 type obsession…it’s just because he loves her hillbilly ass.

Sissy Spacek is truly magnificent here and deserved any awards or accolades she received. And director Michael Apted's directorial m.o. is a smart move, basically to stay out of his actors' way.
But dammit if this isn’t Tommy Lee’s movie! He’s got the thankless man-waiting-in-wings role both in character and as an actor but nails every single moment. He makes you like what could potentially be a very unlikable character -- think Kevin Federline -- while keeping Doolittle completely and one hundred percent human with all his faults, shadows, and doubts in tact. That’s quite a tightrope walk. And Tommy Lee manages to do all this underneath a very unconvincing blonde dye job. Now that’s fine acting.

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