At the outset, this is the story of a small-town, white Appalachian mother and her “brown-skinned biracial” daughter who are living heartbreakingly poor lives in the Appalachian mountains of Tennessee three years after a divorce. The emotionally and economically burdened mother is inflexible in her demand that her daughter commit to math while the daughter wants nothing more than to sing and play guitar like her absent father. When the father returns, both parents think a black girl singing country music is a joke but Grace, (who reminds her parents that she is both black and white) and Grace’s teacher have set as their goal Grace winning Dolly Parton’s Teen Country Star of Tomorrow Contest. Grace and her teacher gain confidence by educating themselves and her parents on the history of blacks and interracial alliances in Country Music. But race relation history takes up less than five minutes of this T.V. movie.
The emotional pull of the story is multi-layered as three generations of mothers and daughters find themselves torn over the demons of their pasts of insecurity and self-doubt vs. their emotional freedom to support Gracie in pursuing her dream. Added conflict comes in the form of the feelings every family member and people in the town have about the father, Danny, who most think abandoned the family; the truth is much more depthful and contoured than a simple abandonment story. I’ll leave it at that since I don’t want to post any spoilers. The father is refreshingly more emotionally complex than a stock, machismo black man; the social spheres of these characters’ lives are filled with people invested in the characters and not the societal issues that influence their world. Even though Dolly Parton and NBC have shined a light on the existence of blacks and mixed people in an oft-forgotten part of the United States –Appalachia, this is a story about a girl’s family and small, country community supporting her as she follows her heart and the music on a path of family unity. I missed the original airing of this movie on NBC but I downloaded it for $0.99 from Amazon.com last night and, since it moved me to tears with great writing for t.v., unexpected plot twists and well developed characters who work their way through all sorts of complex mistakes—you should see this moving story.
Recommendation: Highly Recommended
Reviewer: Omilaju Miranda