Saturday, November 7, 2015

1980: Sissy Spacek for Coal Miner's Daughter

In this biopic, Sissy Spacek plays Loretta Lynn, from her humble beginnings in a small coal mining town through several obstacles to her eventual success as The First Lady of Country Music.

Spacek was the perfect choice to play Loretta Lynn, which makes sense given that she was handpicked by Lynn herself. She does a tremendous job of capturing her speaking voice and character, and her singing is spot-on. Equally impressive is her ability to realistically portray a naive 13-year-old growing into an overworked middle-aged singing star. Spacek was in reality about 30 at the time, and yes, she does look older than 13 at the beginning, but it doesn't take too much imagination to believe she's that young because she does such a good job of acting like it. Her transformation is gradual, as she gains a little more self-confidence with each success, which must have been difficult to pull off, but she manages brilliantly. She also has good, albeit kind of weird, chemistry with her co-star, Tommy Lee Jones, which works perfectly because their relationship is kind of weird, particularly at the beginning. In short, every aspect of her performance is utterly believable, which is crucial to the film's success. Without a sympathetic, realistic portrayal of Loretta, the movie would not have worked. As it is, the film has become one of Hollywood's most beloved biopics. Of course it helps that it's an engaging story with a well-written script, but it's Spacek's performance that brings it to life. It's unquestionably one of the better Best Actress winning performances, and certainly well worth watching.

This was Spacek's second of six (so far) Best Actress nominations, and her only win. She had previously been nominated for 1976's Carrie. Since Coal Miner's Daughter she has been nominated for 1982's Missing, 1984's The River, 1986's Crimes of the Heart, and 2001's In the Bedroom. She's mostly been working in television lately, which seems to happen to most screen actresses over 60, but she still works in the occasional movie, so it's possible that she'll receive another nomination, or even another win. But she is almost 66, and up to this point only two actresses have ever won this award when they were older than that.

One such actress is the following year's winner, Katharine freaking Hepburn who, at 74, not only finally beat the record for oldest winner that had been set by 63-year-old Marie Dressler 50 ceremonies earlier, but also beat her own record for most Best Actress Oscar wins. So stay tuned for that.

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