Tuesday, July 9, 2019

“Wild Rose”: Three Chords and the Truth

Yahooo! Rose-Lynn’s been let out of prison (where she was sent because of a small problem involving a package of heroin). There’s fringe on her leather jacket, a rebel yell on her lips, and an ankle-monitor underneath her cowboy boot,. After a quick stop at the country-music bar where she used to serve drinks and front the local band, she heads for home, but her re-appearance after a year away doesn’t exactly spark joy. Sounds like the makings of a country song.. But this isn’t Nashville. Nope, it’s Glasgow, Scotland.

In the appealing new slice-of-life drama called Wild Rose, Jessie Buckley plays a young woman so vibrant that you can’t help rooting for her even when she’s making a hash of her life, She’s quick to fight, quick to blame others for her own mistakes. (In her mind, her incarceration is entirely the fault of the judge who sentenced her.) Most egregious, she’s all too ready to break the promises she’s made to her two young children (tellingly named Lyle and Wynonna) when these get in the way of her dreams of music stardom in America.  

There are some creaky elements to Rose-Lynn’s story, most of them involving a would-be benefactor played by the charming but unlikely Sophie Okonedo.. Post-prison, Rose-Lynn comes to work for this wealthy lady of leisure as a housekeeper, putting her musical ambitions on hold in a bid to lead a responsible adult life.. But soon, once Okonedo’s Susannah discovers the singing talents of her feisty new “daily woman,” she offers to play fairy godmother for Rose-Lynn’s dream trip to Nashville. Of course the trip eventually happens—but not in the way we would expect, and with a far different outcome. It’s a treat, though, to see the awe on Jessie Buckley’s face as she stands on the stage of the “Mother Church” itself, Nashville’s timeless Ryman Auditorium. One of the film’s many pleasures is a chance to catch a glimpse of Nashville, the world’s Music City, while also introducing us to the more low-key attractions of workaday Glasgow.

Rose-Lynn may blossom in the company of the kindly Susannah, but the real key figure in her life is her down-to-earth mother, Marion, played by the always capable Julie Walters. It’s she to whom Rose-Lynn turns for emergency childcare, and for the hard-earned nuggets of wisdom that she’d really rather not hear. Marion can be tough on her only child, but she’s also her biggest supporter, one who understands that Rose-Lynn will need to grow up in an emotional sense before she can earn the opportunities that may someday be waiting for her. It’s ironic that in the last few days I’ve been learning about Anzia Yezierska, a novelist so determined to devote herself to her craft that she literally wrote her young daughter out of her life for many years, letting the child be raised by an ex-husband and erasing her from her own autobiography. That’s what some artists -- both male and female -- do in order to pursue their careers unhindered by family responsibility. But Marion’s not one to let that happen, and her down-to-earth goals and Rose-Lynn’s soaring ambitions make for a powerful combination.   

Understanding the thick Glasgow accents in this film sometimes makes for a challenge. But the soundtrack is splendid indeed, featuring the voices of some of Nashville’s finest female singers, and also Jessie Buckley’s own  powerful pipes. Her character has tattooed on her arm the classic description of country music as Three Chords and the Truth. Wild Rose has convinced me of the wisdom of that sentiment.

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