Dolly Parton was brought to tears while filming biopic ‘Coat of Many Colors’

9 Dec 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Dolly Parton moved to tears filming biopic.

For some segments of the TV industry, this truly is the most wonderful time of the year, a couple of months (or, if you’re Hallmark, make that 10 months, and in the other two, you sell Valentine’s cards) when heartwarming can trump a general absence of quality. “Dolly Parton’s Coat of Many Colors,” premiering Thursday, Dec. 10, on NBC, may not be a holiday-themed movie, but it’s so perfect for the season, you can pretty much expect it to be repeated next December and probably for many Decembers thereafter.Set in 1955, it centers on 8-year-old Dolly (Alyvia Alyn Lind, “The Young and the Restless”) — a brash, talented youngster who was just one of a dozen children of Lee (Ricky Schroder) and Avie Lee Parton (Jennifer Nettles). It airs Thursday at 9 p.m. “It’s a story of family, faith, hope and dreams becoming reality,” said executive producer Sam Haskell, who was Parton’s agent for many years while at the William Morris Agency. “Dolly’s confident.

Introduced and narrated by Parton – from Dollywood, no less – NBC’s movie focuses on a narrow slice of the singer’s early biography, defined by the power of love and religion. Unabashedly schmaltzy and handsomely done, this “Little House on the Prairie”-like effort should deliver a different audience from last week’s “The Wiz,” but a sizable one nevertheless. The movie picks up in 1955 in Tennessee’s Great Smokey Mountains, where a then-9-year-old Dolly, portrayed by Alyvia Alyn Lind (“Revenge,” “A Deadly Adoption”) is being raised as part of a TLC-like brood of eight kids, with a ninth on the way. And a patchwork coat Avie Lee sews out of rags for Dolly is central to the story. “This is a very emotional song for me, period,” Parton said. “Sometimes when I sing it on stage, when I’m in concert — like during the time my mom was sick and especially after my mama passed — it was really, really hard for me to sing this song without just kind of breaking down or just really having to self contain it. “It is a great anti-bullying song,” Parton said, “and that’s one of the reasons I thought it would also be great to play it on television for families.” Mom (country star Jennifer Nettles) is a preacher’s daughter, while dad (Ricky Schroder) won’t set foot inside the church, much to the chagrin of his father-in-law (Gerald McRaney, who somehow seems to be everywhere at once these days).

The family’s tradition is that the older kids help mom tend to the new ones, and the rambunctious Dolly – already an aspiring singing star, who colorfully quotes her dad by telling her mom, “You may be brown-headed, but you was born with a red-headed temper” – is beyond enthusiastic about the prospect of the new addition. The opening and closing of the film features a present-day Parton talking directly to the audience at her popular theme park Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, TN. “I would love to give a gift for you,” Parton says in the opening moments of the film. “My favorite song I’ve ever written tells a true story from my childhood about a little coat that my mama made for me.

Her pride turned instantly to shame, until she came to understand that it didn’t matter if the coat was made from scraps of material: What was important was that it was made by her mother from love. She’s a gifted young actress with the kind of wise-beyond-her-years sass and precociousness that earned Tatum O’Neal an Oscar years ago for “Paper Moon.” She is more than convincing as the headstrong youngster who is determined to be a big star some day and has a smart answer for anyone who tries to tell her what to do.

And while the movie concocts various subplots out of necessity – about a friendship and a feud with a neighboring clan – that’s mostly filler, as the conversation keeps returning to Dolly’s abundant talent and the importance of faith and promise of an afterlife, with mom telling Dolly her voice is “a gift, from Him that made you.” Granted, these themes are hit so frequently, and bluntly, as to become a trifle repetitive, to the point where it’s a wonder anyone has time left to tend the crops or sing. But there’s an earnestness here – ably delivered by the cast, starting with Lind – that should play well with the target audience, particularly those prone to lament the dearth of faith-based programming and Hollywood’s perceived hostility toward their values. I’m not saying no kid could be as consistently articulate as Lind’s Dolly is — I’m sure Stephen Hawking could more than hold his own with any adult when he was 9.

Hallmark, of course, gradually squandered its regular broadcast platform – yielding shrinking ratings for its movies, in part due to creative neglect – but the combination of holiday scheduling and the country connection should drum up solid numbers. Although it’s a struggle at times, you do suspend disbelief and go with it because Lind is so adorable and you want to accept that the saccharine story line could have played out in real life just the way it’s depicted in the film. He drives the family to church every Sunday, but stays outside smoking while the rest of the Partons go inside to hear the weekly sermon from Pastor Jake Owens (Gerald McRaney), Avie’s father.

In a note to critics, Parton rightly despairs over the general absence on contemporary TV of heartwarming shows like “The Waltons,” the 1970s family drama created by Earl Hamner Jr. Each episode of that show ended with a proto “moment of Zen” — a shot of the Waltons’ homestead at night and the voices of family members bidding each other goodnight at the end of the day. But what Parton and her creative team seem to overlook is that credible characters speaking believable dialogue and finding themselves involved in real-life situations brought us to those gentle goodnights on Waltons Mountain, week after week. Nettles, a gifted country singer, is quite good as Dolly’s mother, and Hannah Nordberg is great as Judy Ogle, the mountain girl who secretly watches out for Dolly and eventually becomes her best friend.

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