Coal Miner’s Daughter
- Sissy Spacek as Loretta Lynn
- Tommy Lee Jones as Doolittle Lynn
- Beverly D’Angelo as Patsy Cline
- Levon Helm as Ted Webb
- Phyllis Boyens as Clary Webb
Based on the life of the queen of country music Loretta Lynn, Coal Miner’s Daughter emerges as a superb biopic, thanks in no small part to the Oscar-winning performance from Sissy Spacek and direction from Michael Apted.
Opening up in Butcher Hollow, Kentucky, we see Loretta as a 15-year-old girl and daughter of a coal miner, one of eight children living on a cabin on a hill. The family is poor, but make their best of what they have at their disposal. Loretta falls for Doolittle Lynn, most commonly referred to as Doo, and after a quick courtship, she marries the much older man. Her parents are none to pleased about this, but her father wants his daughter to be happy so allows the marriage. From the start of the marriage, there is turmoil and upheaval as arguments and raising four kids before she turns 20 takes its toll on the young Loretta. Doo is well-meaning despite his attitude towards his wife and buys her a guitar after seeing her talent for singing. Loretta is uncertain, but begins playing in honky tonks to much success. Doo persuades his wife to pursue a career and though reluctant, Loretta agrees. After securing a hit record, a whirlwind of publicity follows and Loretta soon becomes a huge star on the country music scene, eventually earning the title of ‘The First Lady of Country Music’. Yet with this new-found success comes a variety of problems such as keeping up her image, near exhaustion from constant touring and her tumultuous marriage which leads to a breakdown.
While Coal Miner’s Daughter covers certain familiar themes as other biopics such as a tumultuous life, it is the way that it is told that makes it stand out for the better. Michael Apted infuses the film with a personal feeling and thoughtfulness that lets the events of Loretta’s life play out with brisk assurance and revealing detail. He also keeps the drama from not being too in your face, instead settling for subtle insights into the eventful life that Loretta leads from the poverty of Kentucky to wild success as the country music queen. While there is plenty of drama to be found in Coal Miner’s Daughter, it never feels exploitative or melodramatic at all. Another asset to the film is that it is told in linear fashion, rather than over use of flashbacks that often cheapen other biopics. Through this strategy, we see the growth of Loretta over the years and are always fascinated by the facets of her life. The musical numbers are outstanding, especially from Sissy Spacek who shows off deft musical talent and a stellar voice that really blows you away.
In a role that earned her a well-deserved Oscar, Sissy Spacek shines with heartfelt delivery and quiet subtlety as Loretta Lynn. Displaying the girl’s initially naive view of the world and then her self-assurance, no-nonsense attitude and personal demons, Spacek is always riveting to behold. Required to age from a young girl to a grown woman, she does it with marvelous ease and we never once doubt that she is Loretta Lynn. Her previously mentioned music skill is amazing to behold, and Spacek gives the songs her all and succeeds all the way through. Tommy Lee Jones is well cast as her well-meaning but temperamental husband Doo, who does help her with her career but is prone to berating her and bickering with her on many an opportunity. Beverly D’Angelo is marvelous as Patsy Cline, who befriends Loretta and is often a key figure in advising her. D’Angelo also shows off her amazing singing voice, filled with passion and clarity. In the supporting roles as Loretta’s father and mother, Levon Helm and Phyllis Boyens exude tough but loving care for their daughter.
Told with heartfelt care and quiet power, Coal Miner’s Daughter becomes a tremendous biopic that is riveting to watch.