COAL MINER'S DAUGHTER
Review by Michael Jacobson
Sissy Spacek, Tommy Lee Jones, Beverly D’Angelo, Levon Helm
Director: Michael Apted
Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Features: See Review
Length: 125 Minutes
Release Date: May 6, 2003
can’t sing in front of people! I
you can, baby…”
sign of a good biopic is one that draws you in and enthralls you for the entire
length of its running time, even if you had no prior interest in the subject
matter. That’s what makes Coal
Miner’s Daughter possibly the all time best for me.
I can remember my parents taking me to see it when I was a grumbling ten
year old, not caring a fig for country music or even knowing who Loretta Lynn
was. And I ended up loving the
picture in spite of all that.
Lynn has lived an extraordinary life that’s more than a typical rags-to-riches
story; it’s the very embodiment of the American dream.
From a coal miner’s daughter in a little backwoods town to the First
Lady of Country music, her story was filled with triumphs and heartbreaks, of
hard work and good luck…but most of all, love, and never losing the simple
down home values she grew up with.
Spacek, who won a well-deserved Oscar for her portrayal of the legendary country
star, is pitch perfect as Loretta, even down to doing her own singing in the
film. But we don’t get to that
until later. Director Michael Apted,
more concerned with character than celebrity, takes the time to let his
audiences get to know Loretta and her background.
up in the small coal mining town of Butcher Holler, Kentucky, Loretta’s life
was poor in money but rich in family love.
Her father (the terrific Levon Helm) sweated away in the coal mines to
provide for his wife and children, and like many coal miners, died far too
young. But without complaint, he
made sure that while his family didn’t have much in the way of luxuries, they
never went without what they needed.
life may have been like any number of lives that went before her in that small
town, but that all changed when she met Dolittle Lynn (Jones, in an
under-appreciated performance). Doo
was ex-Army, wild, and a bit more world-wise than Loretta, but that didn’t
stop them from falling in love, getting married, having a big family, and moving
across the country to Washington for a typical family existence.
one thing about Loretta was very atypical…her terrific voice.
Recognizing her talent, Doo encourages her with a present of a guitar,
and despite her initial fear and shyness, gets her up on stage to show the world
what she can do. Eventually,
Loretta learns to like the stage, even writing and recording her first song,
“Honky Tonk Girl”, which leads to her and Doo taking a marathon car trip
throughout rural American to try and get her and her song some recognition.
road to stardom is paved with moments both happy and sad, including her
short-lived friendship with Patsy Cline (the delightful D’Angelo, who ALSO
does all her own singing), her first appearance at the Grand Ole Opry, her first
big tour, her onstage nervous breakdown, and the strains on her marriage that
sometimes came along. But through
it all, she remained a good old country girl at heart, and she rode both the
crests and ebbs of her success with dignity and determination.
would be easy to say that Ms. Spacek’s impeccable performance is the highlight
of the film, but for me, the real magic was in the chemistry she shared with Mr.
Jones. Coal Miner’s Daughter is
for me, first and foremost a love story. The
love shared by Loretta and Doo was the foundation for everything they
accomplished in their lives, and through peaks and valleys, it was always there
to fall back on. Their moments on
screen are among the most priceless to be found in the movies, from the banter
they exchange while quibbling to Doo’s frequently tough persuasion to get
Loretta to follow her dreams, to the finale where we can’t help but think
happily ever after is in the cards. And
sure enough, the Lynns remained happily wed until Doo’s passing some years
beauty of the film also rests in the details.
When you watch a shallow rise-to-fame picture like Glitter, you
can’t help but sorely miss the little things that make the people on screen so
real to you. The actors, along with
director Michael Apted, fill every frame of Coal Miner’s Daughter with
loving attention, so that we earn every victory or suffer every defeat along
Lynn is still a remarkable lady to this day, and millions of fans feel like they
know her personally thanks to the effort behind making Coal Miner’s
Daughter a true and fulfilling biopic.
Her music may live on, but the spirit of her life will definitely never
TRIVIA: Levon Helm, who
played Loretta’s father, was actually the drummer for The Band and can be seen
in their concert movie The Last Waltz!
was very happy with this anamorphic transfer from Universal.
With the 80s being a usually problematic era for DVD presentations, Coal
Miner’s Daughter looks better than ever…far more so than it ever did on
TV or my previous VHS copies. The
colors are bright and true, the print is clean and detailed, and very little in
the way of grain or dinginess gets in the way of the viewing experience.
A couple of darker scenes exhibit some limitations, but these are few and
far between. The movie’s many
fans will definitely appreciate this offering.
for the original mono soundtrack, Coal Miner’s Daughter has a clean,
earthy appeal to its audio. I
suppose hearing Ms. Lynn’s classics in 5.1 might be a bit of an anachronism.
Dialogue is well rendered and the music sounds just fine, even though
dynamic range is fairly limited. Not
spectacular, but suitable, and probably a little bit better than average.
is a disc that opts for quality over quantity in this department.
You can count the features on one hand, even if you’re missing a thumb,
but three of the four are superbly sublime.
The commentary track features Michael Apted with Sissy Spacek, and the
two old friends share many a fond memory about making the movie, the other
actors, Ms. Spacek learning to sing like Loretta, and of course, Loretta’s
real life. It’s only sparse here
and there, but for the most part, a warm and welcome listen.
real highlight, however, is Michael Apted’s recent interview with Loretta
Lynn, which features the singer’s many thoughts on the film and the experience
of bringing it to the screen, a look at her museum which contains many of the
items from both her real life and the movie, and many other lovely tidbits,
including working with Sissy and her appreciation of Tommy Lee Jones as Doo.
One keen memory is that she invited Sissy to sing with her on a Grand Ole
Opry radio broadcast, and the two exchanged verses of the song while audiences
apparently were none the wiser…great praise indeed from the First Lady of
out is a shorter interview Apted conducted with Tommy Lee Jones and former
President Bush saluting the American Film Institute, which is a tad drab and
only included because Coal Miner’s Daughter is one of a small handful
of films he mentions in his speech. Still,
the content of the features package here is better than some DVDs that have
twice as many extras.