Dolly Parton’s Heartstrings: Jolene (TV review)

You can trust Dolly Parton to make pretty much everything alright just by being herself and God(dess) knows we could probably all use some of her infinite wisdom at the moment – and everyday, honestly.

This week we look at the first episode of Dolly Parton’s Heartstrings, a TV show that not only gives us a little insight into the inspiration for some of her most famous songs but also dramatises them, padding them out in glorious melodrama.

This first episode is called Jolene and well, let’s see shall we…

Jolene (2019)

Televised adaptation of Dolly Parton’s song, “Jolene”, about a jealous woman.

*Spoilers*

Jolene (Julianne Hough) is a hard worker unfortunately at a disadvantage because she’s smokin’ hot (boo hoo). Beautiful women are notorious for just being DTF and having nothing but sex and lies stuffed between their ears after all.

Recently fired from her job at the bank – for flirting with customers – despite her impeccable timekeeping and dedication to the role, Jo is forced to take on more shifts at the Baby Blues jazz club where she performs at night.

Before exiting the bank, Jolene laments to her soon-to-be-ex boss that she just doesn’t like her ‘cos she’s attractive – and that seems to set the scene for our titular character. She says herself she’s not really a girl’s girl, club boss Babe (Dolly) aside because women can be judgey and cruel.

All this changes when she meets Emily (Kimberly Williams-Paisley) at the club and rescues her from a skeezy patron who wants a piece of what Emily’s got going on. Stood up on ‘date night’ by her husband, Emily is initially flattered that someone is attracted to her after so long. The women get talking, with Emily pondering why Jo isn’t doing more with her God(dess) given talent. Jolene is saving to blow this small town popsicle stand for the bright lights of Nashville as soon as her finances will allow but for now is stuck where she is.

When Emily hires Jolene to teach her highly-sexed teen son how to play guitar, Jo meets Mr Emily, Aaron (Dallas Roberts) who is cordial but also instantly connects to her via their joint love of a well-known singer I’ve never heard of.

Oh dear.

Jolene barely registers Aaron though as her main pull here is the new and exciting female friendship she’s forming with Emily, who is incredibly generous of spirit and also more than willing to be open about her own struggles. AKA a more or less sex-less marriage strangled to death by scheduling. Hmm.

While Jolene doles out healthy seduction advice for Emily, she is also dealing with her own shit, in the form of a married lover. How will her new non-judgemental BFF take the news when she finds out Jo is boffing a close acquaintance’s husband?

There are lessons to be learnt on both sides of the argument. Jolene is fiercely defiant, maintaining that she ain’t married therefore not responsible for anything, while Emily proves she’s not only judgemental but also paranoid, when she suspects Jo of having it off with Aaron too. Just because she can.

Is he though? And is there a much deeper issue at play within Emily’s marriage? Meanwhile, will Jo accept that maybe a little thing called sisterhood could go a long way?

Thoughts

I got so engrossed in all the drama, man! I mean, Dolly herself tells a tale at the beginning about a saucy redheaded bank teller who flirted with her man IRL years back – and now we’re looking at it all from a different perspective.

Jolene the song is one of the most heartbreaking ditties of our time and it painted Jo as a wanton hussy with no moral compass. Perhaps over the years Dolly has reviewed the situation and wants to give her more credit? Our Jo is more than just a hot piece: she’s talented, kind and she’s got gumption for days. What’s not to love?

This Jolene is likeable and is also taking her lessons as they come. When she realises she does owe her boyfriends’ wife something like female solidarity, it’s pretty beautiful. Likewise, Emily’s inability to bend for Jolene even for a second almost costs her their friendship, and she knows it. I found their chemistry lovely actually and quite real.

Meanwhile, pretty much all the men are dick heads. While Aaron doesn’t actually cheat, he does seriously consider it – which makes me laugh, as if he’d have a chance with Jolene! It is touching when the pair confront the elephant in the room and deal with their issues but I really didn’t warm to Aaron who puts next to nothing into his relationship, while Emily tries everything.

Sure it’s cheesy and contrite but I found this quite satisfying and I’m quite interested in exploring the rest of the series now.

3.5/5

What does my beautiful partner in crime think of Jolene? Would she steal her man just because she can or buy her a one way ticket to Nashville? Find out here, obviously.

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