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Monday, 29 May 2017

Retro Review: Straight Talk (1992)

Straight Talk
Cast: Dolly Parton, James Woods, Michael Madsen, Griffin Dunne, Teri Hatcher, Jay Thomas
Genre: Romantic Comedy
U.S Box Office Gross: $21 million

Plot: A woman ditches her small town life for big city Chicago, where she becomes a sensation as a radio show host

'Ho-hum Rom-Com That Doesn't Have Much To Offer'

Straight Talk stars country music star Dolly Parton in her first main cinematic lead role in this somewhat average, yet flat romantic comedy as Shirlee: a down on your luck woman who leaves the South to head upstate to the Central U.S onwards to Chicago, all in the hope of finding success, love and dreams. Whilst on the lookout for work as a secretary at a radio station, she is mistaken for an on-air radio shrink, this side of Dr Frasier Crane of Frasier. No sooner is she then thrust live on air to millions of listeners and taking their calls that she feels compelled to answer their queries and in helping to resolve their problems. In doing so, she becomes a national hit, in addition to being an honest gal giving advice, as well as opening herself up for people to buy into her advice. But her antics catch the eye of reporter Jack: the type of man Shirlee would have avoided back in her hometown.

The film does have that warmth to it and sees Shirlee moving to the windy city and after spotting an ad for a talk show host for WNTY. It does get off to a strong start, but as it gradually progresses, Straight Talk is at times charming and sweet, and yet at the same time, it doesn't make that much of a profound impact.

Whereas in Sweet Home Alabama, the moral of the story is not to forget your roots and where you came from, with Straight Talk it's more about wiping the slate clean, starting afresh and making something of yourself. The film is definitely a role-reversal to that of Sweet Home Alabama whereby the Southern girl makes it in the big city, which in this case is Chicago.

It was interesting to see James Woods as Jack play against type; he's not known for rom-com, love interest roles, but here he did rather well and he and Dolly looked good together as a pairing. Jack is a roving reporter on the lookout for the latest scoop and who is trying to discredit Shirlee, but as he does so, he ends up falling in love with her. Dolly herself is at her charismatic best, brimming with Southern charm and sweetness that isn't exacerbating. On paper, the pairing up of Woods and Parton does sound bizarre but watching their interactions together onscreen, it somehow worked on a certain level, personally speaking. Although I do wish that their romance had a bit more spice and intensity. 

The film features many of Dolly's songs and is very light and breezy and includes a brief appearance by Jay Thomas who was in Mork & Mindy as a TV host. The performances overall are solid, but nothing spell-binding or groundbreaking to talk about, even though its heart is firmly in the right place.

Dolly Parton is known for starring and appearing in light-hearted and comfort fare, given her warm and sincere and bubbly personality as a person, yet on Straight Talk, it is a movie that plays things way too safe for its own liking.

Final Verdict:

Straight Talk is a harmless romantic dramedy/comedy that has a few sweet moments tucked in, yet it lacks that extra something to truly make it worthwhile and memorable. It's nice and sweet in places, but nothing really much to speak of.

As a romantic comedy, I sort of find myself glued in places, but the script is predictable, humdrum and bland and with a paint-by-numbers formula that is far too basic.

It's Dolly Parton who though is the main focus, she does an ample job with the role; unfortunately, the writer and director didn't offer the likes of her and James Woods a more engaging, engrossing and bankable script. As a whole, Straight Talk is supposedly a modern fairy-tale romance come true, that as sincere, fluffy and forthright as it is, its execution sadly lacked bite, sharpness and memorable scenes to make it truly watchable.

Audiences who are not that content with only simplicity and who expect fireworks and surprises around the corner, are better off with other films. Rom-com wise, Straight Talk does fulfil some of its criteria, genre conventions and tropes but other than that and in contrast to its more successful counterparts such as Sleeping in Seattle, Tootsie, When Harry Met Sally and many others, it fails to hit the ground running.

Straight Talk is a film that is a lot of talk, & yet has very little substance. 


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