This is the place where ou should add our comments about this month’s movie.
In case you haven’t heard the Another Country Movie Club’s film of the month of August 2010
is Coal Miner’s Daughter. If you have seen the film and would like to make some comments on it then please add them to this blog. Don’t worry if you didn’t like it…there will be another one along soon!
The first pop record I ever heard was Don & Phil Everley’s “Cathy’s Clown”. It must have been summer of ’60 or ’61. I was about 8 and my father had managed to put enough away for our first family holiday – a week in a guest house in Ayr. My sister fancied the teenage boy of the house. He would come home from work, scrub up in the kitchen sink and whistle along to this one 45 he seemed to own. I was entranced by Don & Phil’s shimmering harmonies, the incredibly up-beat melody and the sense of bright hope – despite the teenage angst lyric. It was like a window being flung open on to a glittering new world. Where we lived there didn’t seem to be a big sun shining like there was in the sound on that record. And yet I found out years later that Don was born in the Kentucky coal fields – as so viscerally depicted in “Coal Miner’s Daughter” – a near feudal, life-draining existence, the workforce exploited and condemned to the sort of life depicted in a Scots context in Willy McIllvanney’s “Docherty” or Joe Corrie’s “The Image o’ God”:
Crawlin aboot like a snail in the mud,
Covered wi clammy blae,
ME, made after the image o God –
Jings! but it’s laughable, tae.
Howkin awa neath a mountain o stane,
Gaspin for want o air,
The sweat makin streams doon my bare back-bane
And my knees aw hauckit and sair.
Strainin and cursin the hale shift through,
Half-starved, half-blin, half-mad;
And the gaffer he says, ‘Less dirt in that coal
Or ye go up the pit, my lad!’
So I gie my life to the Nimmo squad
For eicht and fower a day;
Me! made after the image o God –
Jings! but it’s laughable, tae.
Levon Helm nobly depicts this struggle in the film.
And yet the human values of love and dignity so fiercely defended in these communities against the dehumanisation of corporate greed produce a culture that bequeathes us strong, defiant voices – often women’s voices: Loretta, Jean Ritchie, Patty Loveless, Crystal Gayle. Pete Seeger once said, “The best songs come out of struggle.” Ordinary people singing about their work and their everyday experience. That’s the hope I heard in that Everley Brothers record – and it’s the hard won experience of “Coal Miner’s Daughter.” It’s why songs will always be at the heart of who we are.
For the record, then, here again below were my comments following my initial viewing of the movie. I had the second viewing with my parents last night, who enjoyed it too, and I did a little reading up on the film online also. I stick to my views, but was amused to find that acting that I described as “solid but not spectacular” or, at best, “strong” was actually deemed Oscar-worthy, whilst a screenplay that I still felt lacked focus and structure was also deemed worthy of an Academy Award nomination! Shows what I know.
Just to clarify what I meant there, I would offer up “Crazy Heart” as an example of a much tighter screenplay. It focuses on a particular period in Bad’s career and yet somehow manages to tell us everything we need to know about him, including his past. It gives him a particular conflict to overcome, and we follow him as he seeks to do so. And that was something else that I felt “Coal Miner’s Daughter” lacked: a defined sense conflict. Not to suggest that Loretta’s life and road to stardom wasn’t full of conflict and obstacles – it very clearly was – but this didn’t coalesce for me into a strong narrative and, as a result, when the credits rolled it almost took me by surprise!
Anyway, I’m rambling. Those initial comments from my previous post, anyway…
I certainly enjoyed the movie, first and foremost. I knew very little of Loretta Lynn and so this was quite an insight into her formative years: at times humorous, at others horrific, a mix of good and bad times… And above all I really enjoyed the songs on offer here, even if I did find myself moved to listen to some Patsy Cline first and foremost as the credits rolled. The performances were, I felt, solid if not spectacular, with Sissy Spacek and Tommy Lee Jones certainly both strong in their respective portrayals, bringing light and shade to their characters.
The only real problem I had with the movie is one common to many biopics: that in trying to cover so much ground to tell the protagonist’s story, the movie seemed to fail to know where its story started or ended. There were themes that were mentioned and explored but it felt to me the movie lacked any real shape to it; it was more a patchwork of remembrances. Then again, maybe that’s in part symptomatic of Loretta’s life as we see it on screen: “Things is moving too fast in my life, always have,” as she herself says. Maybe that’s the point, but it still feels more accidental than purposeful in the screenplay’s design.
Without saying too much, then, I certainly enjoyed it and it was a great choice to kick off the Another Country Movie Club. Not a perfect movie, but certainly a very watchable one and featuring some superb music, which is surely reason enough to pick up a copy. And a planned repeat viewing speaks for itself… I’m hanging on to my rental copy a few days longer as I’ll be visiting my parents this weekend and my father – as a country fan with whom I am lucky enough to share some (but definitely not all!) musical tastes – will be sure to enjoy it as well. I’m looking forward to it too.
Many of these musical biopics suffer from our over-familiarity with the rags to riches element that could easily lead one down the well trodden path of cliche and familiarity.Not so here.
Coalminers Daughter has a freshness that avoids such pitfalls thanks largely to the acting of the two stars Sissy Spacek and Tommy Lee Jones.
There is real warmth and no shortage of laugh out loud funny moments that somehow sit comfortably with subjects ranging from addiction to domestic violence.
The film is a little skewed at the end as her breakthrough to the big time feels a little rushed and soulless.
Loretta Lynn purists may be a little critical of Sissy Spacek’s vocals but as someone who doesn’t know his Tammy from his Patsy I thought she sang beautifully.
One note of caution.There is only so much one can do with a song like the title track which stands out in its mediocrity. Possibly the reason they repeated the more memorable Patsy Cline numbers towards the end.
All in all a lovely little film
Watched this film the other night. Enjoyed it, but in some ways it felt a bit formulaic, the rags to riches plot unfolding as we knew it had to. But then again, it is a biopic, and these things happened. I did think that the film did not really explain Loretta’s apparently explosive rise to superstardom. It seemed to happen out of nowhere, and I was left wondering what she had that all the other female singers described by Patsy Cline as sleeping with people to get on the Opry didn’t. One minute she was an absolute beginner, star struck that Patsy Cline had heard her singing, the next she was being introducd as the First Lady of Country Music.
And here is where I wondered about the music itself. Was it, is it, any good? The title song seemed to me to pretty much lack any redeeming features – a tuneless , literal, cliched autobiographical dirge. I couldn’t help but think of Lurleen Lumpkin, the country songstress Homer Simpson ends up managing. Having said that, I am not familiar with her records, but after seeing this movie I don’t feel a great desire to rectify this. An genuine star has to do more than have the misfortune to be born poor. And this film did not show that Loretta had any particular qualities – indeed, she came across as essentially quite a dull wummin. Drank a little, did a little prescription drugging, but tortured genius this is not. Apparently entirely conventional, she did not struggle to convince or challenge the powers that be but just gave then what they wanted. This left the audience struggling a bit to see what the fuss was about. What exactly is the story here? I suspect there is a story to be told, but this movie did not get there.
Possibly because of the contemporary preference for hard hitting exposes, best exemplified in Walk the Line, it also came across as a bit sanitised. Hell, she didn’t even cheat on her man. And he hardly cheated on her. And he didn’t hit her that hard or that often. She inflicted more damage on him. The relatively upbeat ending came as a bit of a surprise to me, assuming as I was that it would end with the traditional drowning in vomit or drunken car crash. The full degradation before the glorious reinvention.
Thought the performances were excellent though, especially Tommy Lee Jones who was entirely believable as the returning soldier sweeping the 13 year old Loretta off her feet. And a virtually unrecognisable Levon Helm touchingly conveyed the love Loretta’s coal mining dad felt for .
Agreed, John. But on Loretta’s significance: what about Nanci’s line, “Where would I be without the songs Loretta wrote?” You’ve gotta trust The Nance.
Well we certainly learned a great deal about the coal miner’s daughter. We were also caught by the romance and marriage to the war veteran of a certain age. Half the movie was about this and we were there in that world, held and moved by great performances from Cissy Spacek and Tommy Lee Jones.
Thereafter the film bulleted through the early days of Loretta Lynn breaking through and suddenly she had equal billing with Patsy Cline. Exhaustion follows, then difficult days then happy days are here again. Not a very satisfying bio pic and the much more recent “Bird”, “Ray” and “Walk the Line” are good examples of better balanced arcs of drama and are a joy to hear.
As an innocent abroad in the world of country music the film gave me a few songs to retain and replay in my mind but I suspect that if you were better versed in the catalogue of LL then you might well have found the film had omitted many others of equal note.
The lasting images are of her home town, the terrble conditions of miners, the dignity that held families together and the joy of community. Good film for that.
Watched the movie last Friday night. It struck me that a lot of what Loretta and her husband did to get her music on the radio in the beginning is very relevant today. The industry has changed so much that self promotion and innovative ways to reach an audience are what many struggling new artists are having to cope with. I notice so many new singers taking more time out after gigs to connect with and meet the fans.
I liked the way Loretta was able to assert herself with Dooey and show her independent spirit. This despite her so called “Down from the mountain” backward roots. I think she was ahead of her time. I thought it was refreshing too how they stayed together through some tough times and came out the other side – a lot of love there.
I didn’t know how close Loretta had been to Patsy Cline or where she fit in to country music so I’m glad of the education.
Glad to be a part of the new movie club.