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Though compelling, well crafted, and well acted, SWEET DREAMS will probably be a disappointment for Patsy Cline fans. Jessica Lange plays the great country singer who, as the film opens in 1956, is struggling to make a dollar singing at local bars. She finds a fan in good old boy Charlie
Dick (Ed Harris), whom she eventually marries, leaving her complacent first husband. When her recording of "Walking after Midnight" becomes a hit, Patsy thinks she finally has her chance to make some money, buy a nice house surrounded by yellow roses, and retire to raise children, but the children
come sooner than she expects, as does an unwelcome draft notice for Charlie. As time goes by, her increasing concern for her career and children is matched by her distress over Charlie's drinking as well as her success singing romantic ballads like "Crazy" and making crowd-pleasing appearances at
Nashville's Grand Ol' Opry. The feud between Patsy and Charlie escalates, turning abusive, and the couple separates. Finally, as "Sweet Dreams" hits the charts, Patsy and members of her entourage are killed when their small plane crashes into a mountain. Director Karel Reisz and screenwriter
Robert Getchell create a tightly woven drama with two strong main characters and a number of fine supporting roles, and the love story at the film's center is convincing. The picture is a jumble of factual misrepresentations, however, that give the incorrect impression that Cline was a minor
performer who just happened to get a couple of songs on radio and was still reduced to playing drive-ins and demolition derbies at the supposed height of her career. (For a truer portrait, watch the Loretta Lynn biography, COAL MINER'S DAUGHTER, with Beverly D'Angelo as Cline.) On the plus side,
SWEET DREAMS has Lange lip-synching the original Cline recordings, giving viewers a chance to hear some truly great music. Lange received an Oscar nomination for Best Actress, but lost to Geraldine Page for A TRIP TO BOUNTIFUL.