Hollywood To Dollywood

Hollywood To Dollywood


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Gary and Larry are twins with one central passion in common - a lifelong devotion to Dolly Parton. Having spent a decade trying to make it in Hollywood, they finally have the script that they're sure will make all the difference - if only they can get it to Dolly. So they set off along the highway in a bus called Jolene for the legendary Smoky Mountain theme park of Dollywood. It's journey back to childhood for these small town boys, and a journey that will change their lives in unexpected ways.

Some documentaries succeed because they establish a clear agenda at the outset and put all the pieces in place perfectly. Others get by on ragtag charm and sometimes, just sometimes, have the good fortune to make discoveries along the way that surprise both their audiences and their makers. Hollywood To Dollywood is very much a shared journey of discovery. The twins' love of country music is shared by most of the people they encounter en route, but one of the reasons for their obsession with Dolly is more controversial. They're both gay (Gary's boyfriend, Mike, is along for the ride), and Dolly's outspoken support of her gay fans was a vital source of strength for them as they came to terms with their situation.

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Coming from a strict Southern Baptist background, adjusting to being gay is not easy, and the twins' mother still doesn't accept it. Their longing to get through to her and communicate how much they still love her forms one of the film's central themes, even as they deliberately keep discussion of her to a minimum. They don't want this to be personal. They realise that letting go of culturally entrenched homophobia is hard, and they don't want to condemn anybody. This isn't a film that sensationalises a clash of cultures, but one that seeks to build bridges and enable understanding.

As such, it provides a warm and affectionate portrait of southern American culture. Those familiar with the stereotypes will be surprised by how open-minded some of the people the twins meet are, whilst even those who are hostile give the impression that they too are saddened by the gulf this creates. Of course, music itself is a key part of the bridge-building process, and the camp aspect of Dolly's oeuvre is not lost - there's a measure of delight in seeing the most straight-laced and by-the-Book southerners go weak at the knees over glitter, spangles and a belting country tune. In one particularly touching moment, the twins visit a statue of their heroine. It's rare to see any such depiction of a woman happily engaged in an act of self-expression, and this alludes to a side of southern culture we rarely see.

Dolly herself, when we finally meet her, could almost be a sculpture herself, dolled up in spectacular clothing that makes her look as if she's stepped out of a Disney fairytale, yet with a sense of irony and comic timing that reveals a sharp intelligence. She's very much a woman in command - and, consequently, it's quite clear that the twins are out of their depth. Yet there's warmth here too, and the feeling that these would-be creative artists are really only now discovering their true voices. This is a charmer of a film and well worth catching.

Reviewed on: 22 Oct 2011
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Hollywood To Dollywood packshot
Three young men take a road trip in the hope of meeting their idol, Dolly Parton.
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Director: John Lavin

Writer: Gary Lane, Larry Lane

Starring: Gary Lane, Larry Lane, Dolly Parton, Chad Allen, Dustin Lance Black, Michael Bowen

Year: 2010

Runtime: 81 minutes

Country: US


Glasgay 2011

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