Hollywood to Dollywood: Film Review

Hollywood to Dollywood Still - H 2012

Hollywood to Dollywood Still - H 2012

Casually charming road trip doc about aspiring screenwriters desperate to meet their show biz idol.

Aspiring screenwriters Larry and Gary Lane take a road trip to Tennessee to personally present Dolly Parton with their magnum opus.

Dolly Parton has played many roles in her film career, but up until now The Wizard of Oz hasn’t been one of them. At least until Hollywood to Dollywood, depicting the titular road trip undertaken by aspiring screenwriters Larry and Gary Lane to personally present the country legend with the screenplay they’ve written especially for her and make their dreams come true. Ultimately, however, the documentary is less about the destination than the journey.

Gay identical twins from North Carolina, the Lane brothers are a charming and endlessly enthusiastic duo who are lifelong fans of Dolly due in no small part to her acceptance of the LGBT community. It’s a fandom shared by such friends as actors Chad Allen, Beth Grant and Leslie Jordan, as well as Oscar winning screenwriter Dustin Lance Black, all of whom make cameo appearances.

The film revolves around the brothers renting an RV, which they promptly dub “Jolene” after one of Parton’s hit songs, and traveling along with Gary’s boyfriend, Mike Bowen (the film’s producer) to deliver their original screenplay to Parton when she’s scheduled to make a personal appearance at her Dollywood amusement park in honor of its 25th anniversary.

Much of the film’s running time is taken up with interviews with the brothers, who freely and movingly discuss the prejudice they suffered during their upbringing in the deep South as well as their mother’s inability to fully accept their lifestyles. But director John Lavin also mines some unexpected drama along the way, notably footage of a water-logged Nashville after the devastating effects of the 2010 flood that dampened much of Tennessee.

It’s no spoiler to reveal that Dolly, seen in clips from a Larry King talk show appearance, does show up in the film’s final act, displaying the winning charm and personality that have long made her beloved. The machinations involved in the brothers’ attempts to present their screenplay--of which we hear no details but, judging from its sheer size, must be quite the magnum opus — provide some amusing moments towards the end.

Although celebrity worship hasn’t exactly been a neglected documentary topic, as anyone who’s seen My Date With Drew can attest, Hollywood to Dollywood overcomes its thematic limitations with an endearing, casual charm that only the most curmudgeonly could fully resist. Especially since the film also features excerpts from many of Parton’s classic recordings.

Opens August 31 (Bloodrush Films)
Director/editor: John Lavin
Producers: Michael Bowen, Gary Lane, Larry Lane
Director of photography: Jennifer D’Urso
Production design: Michael Bowen
Music: Greg Delson
No rating, 79 min.