I just re-watched a movie that I haven't seen since I was a young tyke in the 90s and before I knew that some people were considered good actors and others were considered lousy. All I wanted from a movie was a star I liked and a good laugh...and maybe some music. Keep in mind though, that I was only 8 at the time and so my tastes were pretty much as you'd expect them to be. I think the most challenging thing I had seen at this point was Who Framed Roger Rabbit? so its no surprise that I loved Straight Talk with Dolly Parton. It was cute, had a pretty personality in it, and even had a fun soundtrack full of music Parton sang for the film. However, I'd only seen it once in the theater (and maybe on video, I honestly can't remember) so I couldn't judge my memory of it last night when I saw it available on Netflix instant watch. I didn't have anything better to do so I figured..."What the hell, I'll turn Dolly on." I mean, I still love 9 to 5 and Steel Magnolias and The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas is one of the best underrated film musicals of the 80s, so why shouldn't this one be good?
For those who don't know (or can't remember), Straight Talk is the story of Shirlee Kenyon (Dolly Parton) who works as a dance instructor in a small hick town and who loses her job because she's a better talker than an instructor. Her clients love her because she listens and tells them how it is, but it doesn't do much for the dance hall. On top of that, her live-in boyfriend treats her like dirt and refuses to move to Chicago with her. So, in a fit of defiance, she packs her belongings into his bowling bag and heads off to the Windy City. When she arrives, he makes a wish on a bridge (losing a $20 in the process) and is 'rescued' by a reporter named Jack Russell (James Woods) who mistakes her mad grab for the rouge bill as an attempt to jump into the river. She runs into the reporter again when she accidentally convinces his girlfriend (a young Teri Hatcher) to leave him. Shirlee then goes job hunting and gets absolutely no luck until she goes to a local radio station to try her hand at being a receptionist. However, an accident and an empty radio booth places her on the air as Dr. Shirlee, an advice giving psychologist. It turns out that Shirlee is a natural and the public loves her. So the radio invents a fake past for her and tries to keep everyone from suspecting that she's a fraud...which gets Jack's the urge to unearth her secrets for his paper.
It really is an adorable film, and I love hearing Dolly telling it like it is. She gives a lot of great, common sense advice to those troubled callers and she never is judgmental or rude. She has a wonderful sense of comic timing and surprisingly good chemistry with Woods, who is rather charming (compared to his usual smarmy bastards). If you've never seen it, or its been a long time, pick this one up again and give it a whirl. I had a great time revisiting it (something I can't say the same for Curly Sue, which I also re-watched last night) and it made me wonder why Dolly hasn't done more work. She really is a natural. Sure, she's doing a lot of playing herself...but lots of other actors do that and they don't get called out on it. I think if we gave her a Meryl Streep-esque comeback, the public would love it. I know I would. Enjoy the clip below, and finish the whole thing sometime :)