Dolly Parton: Here I Am

Movie review by
Jennifer Green, Common Sense Media
Dolly Parton: Here I Am Movie Poster Image
Inspiring celebrity docu has some mature themes.
  • NR
  • 2020
  • 90 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

People who work hard, have talent, and dream big can reach their highest goals. Women can be successful in business. People respect those who live according to their own values.

Positive Role Models

Dolly is said to have been ahead of her time as a young woman in the country music business. She also launched a theme park and a charity that gives books to kids. She's shown to work very hard and have immense talent, an "utter professional" and a "chameleon." She maintains a careful image for her fans, who are totally "devoted" to her. She's humble and can laugh at herself, yet she knows her own skills and abilities. She has been married to the same man for more than 50 years and, despite her stardom, he has stayed mostly out of the public eye. Friends and colleagues all speak of her with respect and fondness. She treats people kindly and is accepting of others. She says she has "gay fans," "gay friends," and "drag queen fans" who want to see her "be them."


Some of Dolly's songs tell sad stories, including one about a pregnant woman who is about to jump off a bridge, or another about a young orphan and her dog. In a scene from 9 to 5, she threatens to shoot her harassing boss in the genitals.


Dolly is known for her self deprecating humor involving her looks. She has long played off this in her music and interviews, including a "Dumb Blonde" song and jokes about bra burnings, the size of her breasts, and her "sex symbol" status. In a scene from 9 to 5, she explodes at her harassing boss, saying that because of him others in the office think she's a "dime-store floozy" who is "screwing the boss." 


In her performances and songs, Dolly can get a little raunchy. We see her tell jokes on stage involving the middle finger or the story of the "town tramp," a "loose woman." She teasingly calls an audience member a "hussy" because she looks like Jolene, the title character of her song who tries to steal her husband (she gets the "sucker" back). A fellow musician recalls her having some "brash" language when she first got in the business. Another remembers her telling an interviewer she purchased her family's cabin in the Tennessee hills because "every now and then a girl just wants to go pee off a porch."


The Dolly Parton brand, albums, and products. The Grand Ole Opry. We see clips from some old TV programs, like The Porter Wagoner Show, and movies, like The Bodyguard and 9 to 5.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

On an airplane, Dolly jokes that her manager's "valium has kicked in."

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Dolly Parton: Here I Am may be a little talky for young viewers, especially those unfamiliar with Parton's work or celebrity, but the musician makes for a wonderful role model. She demonstrates integrity, hard work, professionalism, talent, and compassion. Colleagues and friends talk about her with respect and love. The documentary combines interviews and performance clips to delve into her long career spanning more than five decades. Some of the interviewees will only be familiar to country music fans, but others will cross genre and generational boundaries. Some of her song lyrics tell sad stories, such as one about a pregnant woman about to jump off a bridge or another about a young orphan and her puppy, while clips from interviews and her hit '80s film 9 to 5 take on mature themes like sexual harassment, adultery, feminism, and her ample bra size.

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What's the story?

DOLLY PARTON: HERE I AM is a documentary about Dolly Parton's career that begins and ends with the 50th anniversary of her first performance at the Grand Ole Opry. Dolly talks about her own career and experiences, and she's remembered by bandmates, friends, costars, managers, music historians, and others in the industry. Interviewees talk about her as a trailblazer, an early feminist, a prolific and talented songwriter, a dear friend, and an astute businesswoman. Clips from her childhood through the present-day show us her first performance at age 10, some of her earliest professional appearances, television interviews, film and TV roles, and live shows from the last 50 years.

Is it any good?

Well into her 70s, Dolly Parton remains popular and relevant, and Dolly Parton: Here I Am shows why. More than a dozen people interviewed here, including Dolly herself and many high-profile collaborators and friends, talk extensively about her story, talents, and legacy. Though Dolly admits "people feel like they know me," even fans of the artist may learn something new from this documentary, not the first about her life and career. Clips and photos date back to her childhood and show her first performance at age 10, when she discovered she wanted to be a star. The film shows some of the many renditions of Dolly's songs crossing a range of musical genres, suggesting her influence has been much broader than people may think.

One telling anecdote about not selling Elvis the rights to her hit song "I Will Always Love You" illustrates her business chops. Dolly has never been politically outspoken, an intentional move to not offend or alienate fans, but this film makes a clear case that she was a "pioneer for feminism" (albeit "in disguise") and remains open-minded and big-hearted. Dolly also comes across as fully cognizant of her "mythic, iconic" and "larger-than-life" persona, in the words of friends Jane Fonda and Kylie Minogue. It's something she has consciously cultivated over the years, despite pushback from some -- including Barbara Walters, in one fascinating interview clip.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the legacy of Dolly Parton as illustrated in Dolly Parton: Here I Am. What do you think has been her greatest contribution? What will she be most remembered for?

  • Dolly grew up in a poor but loving family. She was one of 12 children. How did she become a global star worth millions? What can you learn from her story?

  • Which of the alternative renditions of Dolly's songs that are shown in the documentary did you like best? Which of the interviewees did you recognize?

Movie details

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