Meet the Lane twins, Gary and Larry, whose driving ambition is to get their script, fashioned with a lead role for Dolly Parton, into the acrylic-nailed hands of the diva herself. So they decide to buy an RV which they christen "Jolene" (wouldn't you?) and drive across the country, as the title suggests, to get their opus to Dolly at her theme park.
So what's wrong with this picture? Well, for starters, the boys are seen in the opening scenes making chummy with some pretty big Hollywood players (Milk Oscar Winner Dustin Lance Black and Emmy Winner Leslie Jordan among them). Mightn't those contacts have been a better route to Dolly, rather than, say, throwing the script at her while she's on stage? And if they were really on a tight budget, as they claim throughout, wouldn't they have flown to Tennessee instead of buying an RV? They would, unless, of course, what they REALLY wanted to do was star in their own road movie.
But despite the film's obvious contrivances, once the boys hit the road, director John Lavin manages to get beneath the surface and find the real story, if not the intended one; The Lanes are 36 years old and almost embarrassingly concerned with what their mother thinks of them. These are southern boys who grew up with "traditional values" and while they are out to mother, she simply doesn't want to know about their homosexuality. It becomes clear pretty quickly that these men, in seeking fame, in seeking careers, in seeking Dolly, are seeking the acceptance they have been denied since childhood and it's heartbreaking. Sadder still is that they don't seem to see it. But Lavin does, and his film slyly manages to unearth the poignant heart under the trappings of a fabricated "documentary." Parton apparently saw that heart, too; 15 of her songs comprise the film's soundtrack, compliments of the lady herself.
From Hollywood to Dollywood screens at Outfest on Saturday, July 16.
For a full list of films playing at Outfest, click here. To read our Outfest 2011 roundtable with directors, writers, and actors featured in the festival, click here.
-- EDDIE SHAPIRO
Previously > Outfest 2011 First Look: Private Romeo