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Thursday, July 2, 2015

Coal Miner's Daughter (1980)

Set in the coal mine regions of Kentucky, a 15 year old girl (Sissy Spacek) marries a 22 year old ex-GI (Tommy Lee Jones). Their marriage gets off to a rocky start but his confidence in his wife's singing talent pushes him into making her a country star. But when they achieve that goal, their troubles don't end. Based on the autobiography of country legend Loretta Lynn, the film starts off a little differently than most movie bios before settling in the tried and true path of the genre. As with most films of this kind, the film rises or falls on the actor playing the protagonist and fortunately Spacek more than rises to the occasion. Not only does she do her own singing but Spacek, who was 30 years old at the time of filming, is entirely believable as a 13 year old country girl. Ironically, it's only when she plays her own age where her performance sometimes feels strained. But as good as she is (she won the Oscar for this), she's not the whole show. She receives terrific support from Jones as her husband, matching her every step of the way. The film doesn't exaggerate or take much dramatic license which gives it a simple authenticity than most movie bios. Nicely directed by Michael Apted. With Beverly D'Angelo (excellent) as Patsy Cline, Levon Helm and Phyllis Boyens.

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