Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Contemporary Comments

“Sissy Spacek may be the only actress who can play a character at 14 as convincingly as she plays her at 33. In Coal Miner's Daughter, she portrays country-music star Loretta Lynn and demonstrates anew that she is one of the most gifted chameleons on the screen. It's a virtuoso performance that never calls attention to its virtuosity, so deeply has Spacek submerged herself into the dirt-poor Kentucky girl who married at 13 to discover her musical talents. Spacek even does all her own singing--and if she doesn't quite match Loretta's piercing vocal powers, try to come up with an actress who could.”

David Ansen, Newsweek, March 10, 1980

“…. For its first hour, Coal Miner's Daughter is as buoyant a piece of filmmaking as I've seen in months ... And Sissy Spacek delivers the performance of a lifetime. With her pallid face, her wispy curls, and her soft, insinuating eyes, Spacek makes Loretta a prodigy of instinct and innocence and guts. Marching around in her bobby-socks and her frowzy stocking cap, she's a mercurial creature, a child in whom the future lover, mother and superstar intermingle. Spacek is 30 years old, but she's the only actress I know of who can play childhood and adulthood with equal conviction. Instead of simulating adolescence, she puts herself in a sort of teenage trance; the eyes that stare out at us are a 13-year-old's eyes. Which is why her young Loretta never falls into the sort of forced jauntiness that most adult actresses adopt to appear youthful. Apted gives her time to relax, to be solemn or laid-back or shy, to suggest the shifting moods of a strong yet unformed personality.

“…. [B]est of all, the film pays special attention to the growth of Loretta's voice. Sissy Spacek did all her own singing in this film (as did Beverly D'Angelo, who does a remarkable portrayal of Loretta's mentor, Patsy Cline), and if she never reaches the plaintive heights that the real Loretta Lyn scales, she also avoids the shrill, off-key renderings that made Gary Busey's otherwise magnificent Buddy Holly and Bette Midler's The Rose sound so bad on the home stereo. The crooning that Spacek does as she putters around the house and washes the dishes is quiet and unspectacular, but occasionally she'll hit a lovely high note or pull a perfect melisma like a rabbit from a hat. Then, as she practices amid screaming children and an ornery washing machine, the voice gains strength and assurance. And finally, when she first appears at Nashville's Grand Ole Opry, she has become polished and stylish, the tone sliding into place from a stylized hoarseness with wonderful ease. Spacek uses her voice the way most actors use their walk and gestures: to suggest character development….

But… [a]s soon as Loretta makes it to glittery Nashville, Coal Miner's Daughter becomes sketchy, reticent, and trite: a drab lonely-at-the-top melodrama… [A]n onstage breakdown… pales next to the one Ronee Blakley brought off so poignantly when she played a Loretta Lynn-like figure in Nashville….

“And when Coal Miner's Daughter finally collapses, even its sundry beauties seem somehow forlorn…. [Apted and Rickman] miss the joy and terror that Loretta Lynn must have felt as she made her dizzying ascent and watched the past drop away beneath her. Indeed, by the end, we may be surprised to see how little we understand of the real Loretta and Doolittle, the ones who aren't mythic creatures, the ones who live among us still. All we know is that Loretta and Doolittle keep going somehow -- and that leaving their harsh Eden in the Kentucky hills has only made the going rougher.

Stephen Schiff, Boston Phoenix, March 11, 1980

"....The revelation here is Tommy Lee Jones.... “We may not feel as close to Loretta, who isn't so clearly a focused a character. I don't think Rickman ever figured out what he wanted to say about Loretta Lynn and the relation of her music to her life. We see her singing only once when she's a kid, and Sissy Spacek, who's physically very convincing as a thirteen-year-old, doesn't give her any specific character as she gets older. We're puzzled when Doo suddenly pushes this mother of four into a singing career. It's as if he had some flash in the night that his wife was a performing genius and after a short period of reluctance she simply agreed with him. Her drive upward falls in and out of cliché….

“…. [W]e wait for an emotional climax that never comes. Sissy Spacek sings Loretta Lynn's songs accurately but with little intensity of feeling. Listening to that tiny voice, we can't hear any pain or joy--as we could in Ronee Blakley's heart-wrenching work in Nashville. With her huge, unblinking eyes and demon-child freckles and put-upon manner, Spacek comes off as too vague--almost weightless-for the adult Loretta Lynn, who is a very shrewd and complicated woman. The filmmakers establish Loretta's roots beautifully, but then they fail to show us how she transforms her experience into art, and the movie evaporates into a cloud of pleasantness.”

David Denby, New York, March 17, 1980

“[In Tess, Nastassia Kinski] never grows up; when she's a rich man's fancy woman, she's still a child. It's a problem similar to the one that Sissy Spacek (who is in her thirties) had in Coal Miner's Daughter. Spacek's shy, naughty smiles were enchanting when she was supposed to be a thirteen-year-old, but when she was supposed to be a grown woman she looked like a kid dressed up in her mother's clothes and wig….”

Pauline Kael, The New Yorker, February 2, 1981
(review of Tess)

“As long as the movie re-creates the world of the coal miner's daughter, it is affecting and memorable. Once the film turns to the triumphs and trials of the singer, it becomes increasingly hollow. The filmmakers fail to find psychological perceptions that might have freshened one more star-is-born saga….

“There's [another] major problem with the movie--Sissy Spacek's singing. Her voice is better than I expected; we have no trouble imagining her performing for a rapt coterie at the Palomino Club. But there's a huge difference between believing in Spacek as a competent country singer and believing in her as the most adored country singer of her generation. Spacek simply doesn't have the electrifying presence of a musical superstar. The filmmakers must have sensed they had a problem, for there isn't much music in the movie; we hear only a few snatches of Loretta's hit songs. Music should be an essential part of the story, and we feel cheated by the flimsy repertoire.

“Apart from the musical scenes, Spacek gives a captivating performance. Her convincing depiction of a thirteen year old in the movie's early scenes is quite uncanny, and her innate warmth keeps the audience on her side throughout the film. The surprise is that Tommy Lee Jones is equally good….”

Stephen Farber, New West, March 24, 1980

“…. Michael Apted demonstrates here as he has previously ... a very subtle command of actors and milieux, and an ability to suggest ominous discordances between them. A recurring theme in his films is the nervousness and insecurity of contemporary sex-role playing, and he is very good at projecting uncontrollable anxiety in his characters.
“For her part, Sissy Spacek never makes a false move as Loretta Lynn. Every gesture and expression is reined in at precisely the moment it has developed the character. It is a textbook performance, completely free of condescension. Unfortunately, Spacek's characterization never erupts into anything approaching a big scene. I already knew that Loretta Lynn had a breakdown somewhere along the way, because the Ronee Blakely character in Nashville was reportedly patterned after Loretta Lynn, and the breakdown scene on stage is as close as we have come to an obligatory scene in this relatively new genre. Well, folks, Spacek's breakdown comes and it goes, and nothing much changes because there is a net under this picture as there was not under Nashville, when Blakely went to pieces, albeit with less grace, finesse, and restraint than Spacek.

“What may have happened is that Loretta Lynn hovered so benignly over the set that she inhibited the living daylights out of everybody, including Tommy Lee Jones…, Beverly d'Angelo…, Levon Helm…, and Phyllis Boyens….

“....I just wish that somewhere or other there had been the kind of emotional explosion Sissy Spacek could have set off to illuminate fully the extraordinary range and texture of her talent….”

Andrew Sarris, Village Voice, March 10 ?, 1980

“Three performances and a face confirm this film. Sissy Spacek--yes, I'm flabbergasted--is simple and faithful as Lynn. Spacek's face is no more of an actor's instrument than it ever was, but given a human being to play instead of weirdo, given a director concerned with acting, she makes that woman exist. She sings the songs herself, nicely, and she has mastered the Appalacian accent.”

Stanley Kauffmann, The New Republic, March 29?, 1980

“As everyone knows, Loretta Lynn … has … a voice. And part of the beauty of Universal’s Coal Miner’s Daughter is the careful detailing of loretta’s early life and the grindingly slow, almost accidental way out of it that her voice provided.

“… [Loretta] loves her father’s warmth, his kindness. And yet, in Loretta’s reaction to her father ... we see the beginnings of some new emotion, an anger toward his passivity….

“Then Loretta meets Doolittle! We can suddenly see by the looks they exchange that this film is a romance. But with a difference. The film allows us to see why they’re attracted to each other. And this depth adds a richness that few Hollywood romances possess.

“Beyond the beauty of the performances, Coal Miner’s Daughter has a sense of place that few films capture…. However it was gotten, [it] is a film worth seeing. Finally, Sissy Spacek is a star!”

Molly Haskell, Playgirl, May 1980


Post a Comment

<< Home