Monday, May 25, 2009

Mumbo jumbo jive

On my walk to work this morning, I rather unexpectedly put on the soundtrack from the 1992 Dolly Parton comedy Straight Talk. It is, as romantic comedies go, not the greatest. As Dolly Parton movies go, it is probably at about a 6, with 9 to 5 naturally representing the high end of the scale, and Rhinestone serving as the bottom - seriously, who thought Sly Stallone as a country singer was a good idea?

Although the critics pretty much universally hated it, I am actually very fond of Straight Talk, both the movie and the soundtrack. The basic premise is that Dolly is Shirlee Kenyon, a country girl from Flat River, Arkansas with a loser of a boyfriend (played by Michael Madsen) who has just lost her job as a dance instructor. So she packs her bags and heads to Chicago where, through a series of completely improbable events, she is mistaken for the new radio psychologist at radio station WNDY. Put on the air with no prep, the audience, of course, loves her because she is so down to earth and well, it's DOLLY PARTON giving out advice. The radio station gives her a contract, as long as she agrees to call herself "Dr. Shirlee." Enter James Woods as an investigative reporter who thinks the whole thing smells fishy. In trying to uncover the scam, he falls in love with her.

The movie is nothing if not completely predictable, and Dolly is pretty much playing herself. There are a bunch of good one liners courtesy of Patricia Resnick (who also had a hand in 9 to 5), my favorite being Dolly's declaration that she went to Screw U when asked where she received her medical training. (Check it out in the video below - it's at about the 8 minute mark.)



Some of the one liners in the movie remind me quite a bit of Dolly's stage show, where she at times cracks herself up more than she does the audience, but she's Dolly so we forgive her. Also of note in the movie is Griffin Dunne, playing another neurotically nerdy character, although to me he will always be David Naughton's decaying best friend Jack in An American Werewolf in London.

I remember buying this soundtrack before I ever saw the movie. Comprised entirely of Dolly Parton originals, it was also the first Dolly Parton CD I bought completely on faith. During my first couple years of college I played the Dolly Parton's Greatest Hits cassette tape on my Walkman until it was practically shredded, and had checked out Eagle When She Flies from the library quite frequently. But up till then, I had not really purchased a whole lot of Dolly, especially if it was music I had not heard. I took the leap with the Straight Talk soundtrack; it was VERY much an impulse purchase.

And as impulse purchases go, it has served me quite well. Yes, the songs are, as my friend Caryle might say, pure processed pastuerized cheese product. But, as my sister Wendy would say (and I would heartily agree), cheese is ALWAYS better than crap. You can tell that Dolly set out to write songs that were relevant to the movie, although she did recycle "Light Of A Clear Blue Morning" from one of her 70s albums. The production is very 90s country-pop, but I just can't help but like it. The title song is classic Dolly cornpone, with references to Oprah and Donahue. Frustratingly for me, the video is not embeddable. Watch it here. Another highlight is "Livin' A Lie" which has the most cliched lyrics ever, but once again, it's Dolly so we forgive her.



What I can't get over is how much more natural Dolly looks in this movie. It has to be at least 3 facelifts ago. Of course, the movie is getting close to 20 years old, which just makes me feel as old as Methuselah.

The movie is on DVD, full screen format only sadly, but it is certainly worth a watch. The CD is out of print, but used copies abound on Amazon. Both play like early 90s nostalgia, and sometimes that is just what the doctor ordered.