★★★★ | by Emma Levett
Dolly Parton: Here I Am is a 2019 British biographical documentary film, directed by Francis Whately. The film offers a look into the life and musical career of Dolly Parton, which is told through interviews with friends, companions, and the artist herself.
Prior to watching the documentary, I knew Dolly Parton was a global superstar. Without fail (and absolutely zero shame) a couple of my playlists contain a few of her predominant hits, but I was unaware of how worldly she was throughout her career of almost 60 years! Being just shy of a 90s child, I didn’t know a lot of Dolly but this documentary gave me exactly what I needed.
Dolly is portrayed as always being impartial and never did anything to make her fans feel uncomfortable. The subtle pronunciations are shown through her professionalism, quick-wit, achievements, lyrics and the decisions she made throughout her career. The irony of her self made image of wigs, her body figure and her nature leads the audience to believe that she is not just her image. Dolly made no mention of this in her interviews, but the other interviewees gave a fabulous outlook on what she was really like… a professional. Her friends in the business included her musicians, Jane Fonda, Linda Perry and archive footage of Porter Wagoner that tell the tale of how Dolly is strong willed, kind and undeniably underestimated.
The documentary gives us nuggets of insights, like the fact Elvis wanted the rights to ‘I will always love you’ but was turned down by Dolly herself. This is a great advocation and an example of the strategic, clever business woman that Dolly was. But that’s all the documentary gave us. Small nuggets of private life and decisions she made through her career. Most of the discussions about her private life were just that. Literally an overview about how she kept her private life. None of the interviewees had seen her without her wigs and make up and certainly 95% of them hadn’t seen or heard of her husband. Again, Dolly gave the audience exactly what she wanted them to see.
There was also a glaringly obvious timeline jumps where it takes us through the 70s but then jumps to the 90s. Frustratingly I don’t think we will ever get to see the real Dolly Parton, but what gives us the right to? For me, I believe the way she makes fun of herself but is equally one of the most talented country musicians that has graced us is something to be admired from all musical backgrounds and preferences. The most groundbreaking lesson for me was how intimate and heartbreaking her self written lyrics were. I’d recommend this documentary to anybody that has a love of music.
“Show business is a money-making joke. And I’ve always liked telling jokes.” – Dolly Parton