Get Your Reps In: “Coal Miner’s Daughter” Is One of the Best Musical Biopics

What to see at Portland’s repertory theaters.

Coal Miner’s Daughter (1980)

It can be disarming to visit a film from before its genre was codified, synergized and spoofed. But those are the charms and ambiguities of Coal Miner’s Daughter, the biopic of country icon Loretta Lynn.

Director Michael Apted charts Lynn’s journey from a Kentucky hill cabin to the Grand Ole Opry in familiar macro-beats. But throughout, it’s a story of marriage more than fame. Loretta (Sissy Spacek) is whisked from her family at age 15 by husband-to-be Doolittle (Tommy Lee Jones), as we spend the entire first act in earthy human drama. Hell, there’s no music of any kind until Lynn sings softly on her porch, almost as an afterthought, about 10 minutes in.

It’s the saga of a girl’s life taking off at a breakneck pace, turning from love affair, to abusive marriage, to self-discovery, to collaborative radio hustle, to a power-flipped roadshow before Lynn ever sorts out who she is or what she wants out of life. It’s enough to make somebody write a song. Hollywood, Jan. 26.


Academy: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007), Jan. 27-Feb. 2. Rollerball (1975), Jan. 27-Feb. 2. Cinema 21: Psycho (1960), Jan. 28. Cinemagic: Star Wars (1977), Jan. 27-30. The Empire Strikes Back (1980), Jan. 28, 29, 31. Return of the Jedi (1983), Jan. 28, 29 and Feb. 1. The Lion King (1994), Jan. 28. Clinton: An American in Paris (1951), Jan. 28 and 29. Lumpia With a Vengeance (2020), Jan. 28. Unknown Passage: The Dead Moon Story (2006), Jan. 30. Summertime (1955), Jan. 31. Hollywood: The Birdcage (1996), Jan. 29. Barbarella (1968), Jan. 29. Edward II (1991), Jan. 30. The Conformist (1970), Jan. 31.

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