Sissy Spacek embodied Loretta Lynn in Michael Apted’s biopic well enough to win an Oscar for best actress. It’s a strong performance in a modestly weak film, helped tremendously by the gifted Tommy Lee Jones, who plays Lynn’s husband, Mooney.
The first half of the film is strong, as Spacek, all pluck and naivete, leaves the poor back country of Kentucky–with Mooney at her side–for the road to superstardom. There she meets Patsy Cline (Beverly D’Angelo), already a success in the country-western world, who takes the young and talented hillbilly under her wing. I admired the way Apted and screenwriter Thomas Rickman take the time to build the characters and the tumultuous relationship between Lynn and Mooney.
The second act follows Lynn’s career trajectory a bit too swiftly, moving from gig to gig, and year to year, with alarming speed. We’re expected to sympathize with the road-weary ingenue, and her struggle to accept her fame, but it all happens so fast, we never really get a sense of who she is. This might have been a great film, if only Apted and Rickman had been a little more consistent.
Still, Coal Miner’s Daughter is worth a look, if a nostalgic one, for Spacek’s terrific performance–and for Jones’, too, for that matter.