As much a road movie as it is a subtle screed on civil rights, John Lavin’s Hollywood to Dollywood follows two openly gay brothers as they travel from one eponymous location to the other for the sole purpose of handing a spec script to their idol, Dolly Parton. To the uninitiated observer, much of this will no doubt seem strange—it certainly did to this writer—but we’ve reached a point at which any documentary handling such oft-sensationalized subject matter as this in an evenhanded manner is a welcome exception. Neither the brothers (Gary and Larry Lane) nor Lavin himself ever turn this story into a manipulative tearjerker—which would have been easy to do, given how genuinely sad it is at its core. The two North Carolinians spend an inordinate amount of time explaining away their Southern Baptist mother’s inability to accept their homosexuality, continually passing it off as inherited cultural baggage that takes time to resolve itself. Parton, meanwhile, emerges as a near-mythical figure whose laid-back acceptance makes her surprisingly likable: “I think I’ve always been accepted in the gay community because I accept them,” she says at one point in archival footage. (It’s still a bit difficult to imagine her watching the Lanes map out every detail of their scheme without being a little weirded out.) Even at a lean 81 minutes, though, Hollywood to Dollywood occasionally gets tiresome; what it does minute to minute is often less interesting than what it represents.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on September 5, 2012