Film Reviews

Dolly Month: Blue Valley Songbird (1999)

Starring: Dolly Parton, John Terry, Billy Dean

Director: Richard A Colla

A Nashville country singer (Parton) has been held back from stardom by a crappy manager and controlling boyfriend, but longs to break free and make it big. When she turns to her guitarist Bobby (Dean), she finally finds an ally who helps her face her past and move into a better future.

This was a made for TV movie, and has some scenes or moments that feel a bit hammy or cheesey, but it’s not too bad on the whole for all that. Dolly sports a red wig here instead of her signature blonde, but she shows her lovely sparkle, wit and warmth which has made her a beloved performer for decades. It always surprises me how great Parton does as an actress without formal training, even though she plays versions of herself in films.

The music in this film is really lovely, with some quieter songs that feel heartfelt and others that have a more upbeat and catchy tune. Dolly wrote some new songs for this film and others are ones she had already recorded, though no album was released for this film specifically.

The plot doesn’t exactly speed along, but there’s enough going on with different strands of story: a love story, estranged family and the singer and her team on tour. It doesn’t feel one dimensional. The way that the film explores the darkness of her past and her abusive father is mirrored in the present with her troubles with her manager, and it’s nicely handled, even though it’s a darker story than you might expect from a Parton film.

Made for TV and released in 1999, it’s a film that manages to be pretty moving at times and doesn’t fall into the bad performances or cheesey plot points that some of these films can stumble into.

See It If: you’ve ever wanted to break away from the people that hold you back. While it might not rank amongst the bigger Dolly films of the 80’s, it’s quite entertaining, emotive and has some great music.

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