Saturday, December 19, 2020

Sweet Dreams

Movie Name:
Sweet Dreams
Year of Release: 1985
Director: Karel Reisz
Starring: Jessica Lange, Ed Harris, Ann Wedgeworth, David Clennon, James Staley, Gary Basaraba, John Goodman, P.J. Soles, Terri Gardner
Genre: Drama
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 3 
View Trailer

Synopsis and Review:
Director Karel started his career in the 50s tackling documentaries, and as he ventured into the following decade, he was responsible for some iconic films of that period, including "Morgan!" and "Isadora". In the 80s he was not quite as prolific, starting the decade with the well received "The French Lieutenant's Woman", which he followed with this biopic of the life of country singer Patsy Cline. The film focuses on the period of life between 1956 and 1963. We witness Patsy performing and attempting to make her career go to the next level. Her husband isn't that enthusiastic about her or her career, but in one of her concerts, she meets the charismatic Charlie Dick. He openly flirts with her, though he's with someone else, and while she initially rebuffs his advances, after separating and eventually divorcing her first husband, she starts dating him, eventually marrying him. As her career gains more momentum, the antics from Charlie also escalate, including extra marital affairs, and some abuse, something that seems to quiet down when Patsy has their children. However that tranquility is brief, as alcohol and insecurities send Charlie on another binge of violence and extra marital adventures, all of which jeopardize Patsy's well being, her career and their marriage altogether. As Patsy continues her ascent to even higher levels of popularity, that trajectory is dramatically cut short, since while returning home from an event/performance, the small plane in which she was traveling crashes, killing everyone in it.
"Sweet Dreams" is a glimpse into the life of Patsy Cline, emphasizing some of the dramatic events that occurred throughout the last few years she lived, particularly the ones centered around the convoluted life she shared with her second husband. It's a film that doesn't provide much insight into Patsy's ambitions, aside from having a career and providing comfort for her children, never truly probing deep into what propelled her or fueled her singing aspirations. Considering it's a biopic, it's surprisingly shallow, detailing some of the drama she experienced in her brief life, namely the life threatening car accident, and her volatile relationship with the insecure Charlie, which included abuse, alcohol and his inability to grow up and take control of his life. It's a film that doesn't provide much insight into any of the characters, opting to portray the events in very broad strokes (basically dramatic events with musical recording scenes in between). The musical numbers also lack engagement and authenticity, they're merely staged for representation, lacking in style and ultimately, failing to capture what truly made Patsy Cline so unique and wonderful (while not every film is going to be like Bradley Cooper's "A Star is Born", one can witness the vivacity with which the musical numbers were staged in Rupert Goold's "Judy" for instance or even Michael Apted's "Coal Miner's Daughter"). The cast does what they can with the story, with Jessica Lange trying to mimic Patsy Cline as much as possible, and Ed Harris failing to add much nuance to Charlie Dick. While featuring a strong cast, it's a film that fails to elicit much enthusiasm.