Coal Miner’s Daughter (1980)

coal miners daughter poster 1980 movie loretta lynn
8.5 Overall Score
Story: 8/10
Acting: 9/10
Visuals: 8/10

Simple but feels more real than other similar biopics

Biopics are overdone today but not when it was made

Movie Info

Movie Name:  Coal Miner’s Daughter

Studio:  Universal Pictures

Genre(s):  Drama/Musical

Release Date(s):  March 7, 1980

MPAA Rating:  PG

coal miners daughter loretta lynn mooney sissy spacek tommy lee jones

Are you using me or protecting me?

Loretta Webb (Sissy Spacek) was born to a large family in Butcher Hollow, Kentucky where she never expected to leave.  When she meets Oliver “Mooney” Lynn (Tommy Lee Jones), Loretta finds her small world expanding as she moves to Washington and starts a family of her own.               Introduces Loretta to music to bring out her natural ability, and Loretta’s skill allows her to shine.  With fame and fortune coming fast and hard, can it be too much for Loretta and Mooney Lynn?

Directed by Michael Apted, Coal Miner’s Daughter is a biopic drama.  Telling the story of the early years of Loretta Lynn (April 14, 1932-October 4, 2022), the film was released to positive reviews and won an Academy Award for Best Actress (Spacek) with nominations for Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Art Direction, Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing, and Best Sound.  The Library of Congress selected the film for preservation in the National Film Registry in 2019.

coal miners daughter patsy cline beverly dangelo

Patsy…don’t get on that plane

Loretta Lynn is one of those branching country singers.  She is classic country singer, but her appeal has more than just straight country.  Through her long career, she broke records, but the film does a good job presenting a biopic that is less self-indulgent than many of the current similar films.

Biographical films have been around a long time, but now they are always making the big screen.  When Coal Miner’s Daughter was made, they were a little less common and less formulaic.  Instead of having a “rough” period in the middle of the film where Loretta works through, it is the fame and fortune near the end that pushes her to realize she has to take control of her life.  Both Loretta and Mooney aren’t always portrayed as the best people and that gives the film a sense of realism.

Sissy Spacek is at her best as Loretta Lynn.  She was personally selected by Lynn for the role and performed all her own music.  She doesn’t entirely look like Loretta Lynn but her commitment to the role makes it work.  Tommy Lee Jones is a lot trickier.  His performance is strong but his character is harder to nail down in his “goals” for his relationship with Lynn since he sometimes comes off as a user but also her strongest support.  Though it is short lived, I like Beverly D’Angelo’s turn as Patsy Cline, and it is also notable that Levon Helm of The Band plays Lynn’s father.

coal miners daughter loretta lynn grand ole opry sissy spacek

Taking the steps to stardom

The film has a pretty standard look.  It has the trick of showing poverty without being a stereotype of poverty.  Loretta’s Lynn’s life in Kentucky and Washington does a good job at doing this.  This is a nice contrast with the second half of the film in which Loretta Lynn is finding success and exploring the heyday of places like the Grand Ole Opry and Nashville.

Coal Miner’s Daughter is one of the better music biopics out there.  It isn’t full of flash or scandal, but an honest telling of a woman rising through the ranks of difficult profession to get ahead of…while trying to maintain a family and a life.  It plays like Lynn’s life was over when the film finished, but Loretta Lynn lived and performed for years following the release of the film…and it might be time for Sissy Spacek to return and tell the rest of the story.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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