Lee, who developed the project and is one of the exec producers, knows just how to play the saucy, groundbreaking and rule-bending singer, who set Nashville on its ear and in the process opened doors for numerous successors.
Show taps some of the genre’s biggest guns, such as Chet Atkins, Willie Nelson and Loretta Lynn, to play themselves, each sharing their real-life remembrances of one of country music’s more colorful performers.
Biopic opens with West’s 1991 fatal car accident, and switches quickly to her childhood, when an adolescent West had to care for her numerous siblings.
After a stint studying songwriting at a local college, West and her songwriting hubby Bill (William Russ), in the midst of raising a brood of youngsters, try for the big break: a shot on network variety series “Jamboree.”
Though her road to stardom is filled with speedbumps, eventually she succeeds , with hit records and a grueling roadshow schedule.
But failed relationships, a trio of husbands and the struggle to
stay on top take their toll, and the inevitable crutches like alcohol take root; the money flows, the back taxes are due, and it all comes to a crashing halt. But Lee manages to keep the telefilm in solid drama territory.
Scripter Theresa Rogerton keeps the teleplay taut with realistic dialogue and simmering emotion, wisely keeping her distance from cornpone humor and over-the-top histrionics.
William Russ as spouse Bill West captures the real-life model whose good-natured manner seems at odds with the often gritty, backstabbing side of the music biz.
Jennie Krochmal and Jennie Smith as the young Dotties keep the opening salvos of the story alive and worth watching.
Director Bill D’Elia has a talented cast and successfully guides them in establishing a high credibility factor to the story usually lacking in other biopix.
A nod also should go to costume designer Faye Sloan, who nailed the dress of the real-life equivalents as well as the changing eras.