Sweet Dreams

Movie review by
Renee Schonfeld, Common Sense Media
Sweet Dreams Movie Poster Image
Patsy Cline biopic with music, drinking, wife beating.
  • PG-13
  • 1985
  • 115 minutes

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Included in this sometimes uplifting story of what it takes for a talented performer to reach her goals is a cautionary tale about the destructive effects of alcoholism and one woman's inability to change a volatile and abusive marriage. The film presents a very real picture of a relationship in which passion and fury live side-by-side with an ugly outcome.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Patsy Cline is portrayed as a complex tragic heroine. Vibrant, talented, stubborn, and ambitious -- a model of mid-20th century feminine assertiveness -- she is, at the same time, at the mercy of others, molding herself to the expectations and needs of those around her, ultimately done in by the ferocious man whom she loves with devastating results. Most of the men are shown as heavy-drinking, shallow, and selfish. Patsy's mother, though uneducated, is loving, supportive, and mostly wise.

Violence

Several scenes depict escalating acts of domestic violence: a couple throws food at one another; mutual hard slapping; finally, the husband brutally beats his wife, pummeling her and throwing her to the ground. A major car accident occurs, the victim is shown bloodied and injured. Her treatment includes close up views of facial stitching. A plane crashes into a mountain instantly exploding and killing the four on board.

Sex

Many romantic scenes, some of which are limited to passionate kissing, dancing, and necking; others take place in bed and feature either foreplay or post sexual cuddling. There is some extra-marital flirting and implications that adulterous sex has taken place. No overt sexual activity; no nudity.

Language

Frequent swearing, sexual references, and name-calling: "pee my pants," "kiss my ass," "s--t," "screw," "slut," "whore," "piss," "bitch," "Goddamn," "butthole," "Christ on a cross," "d--k," "wish my daddy had had his thing cut out," "hell," "t-ts."

Consumerism

Coca Cola, Schlitz, Camel cigarettes, Lipton Tea, Greyhound.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Set in the late 1950s and early 1960s, many characters, including Patsy Cline and her husband Charlie, smoke continuously. There is heavy drinking throughout as well: Charlie is portrayed as an alcoholic, subject to violent outbursts when he's drunk. Characters are shown drinking beer in almost every setting; numerous scenes are set in bars and roadhouses with lots of alcohol consumed and many incidents of drunkenness.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that with its scenes of domestic violence and frequent profanity, Sweet Dreams pushes the limit of its PG-13 rating. While the movie tells the story of Patsy Cline's rise to stardom and features her indelible musical performances, the emotional emphasis is on the passionate and abusive relationship between Patsy and her husband, Charlie. Their fights move from early scenes of mutual angry words to Charlie's ultimately graphic and brutal beating of his wife. In addition, there is a devastating auto accident which results in bloody injuries and ugly scarring. The final action is suspenseful and horrifying as a plane crashes and explodes with four passengers inside. Drinking, drunkenness, and smoking are continuous throughout and alcoholism plays an important role in the tragedy of Patsy's life. There's lots of swearing and name-calling: "ass," "s--t," "hell," "t-ts," "screw," and more.

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What's the story?

Talented, ambitious, and outspoken, Patsy Cline (Jessica Lange) made her own way, on her own terms in the male-dominated music business in the 1950s. One of the earliest cross-over singers from country music to pop, her exceptional voice and spirit found her at the top of the charts by the time was 30. In SWEET DREAMS, Patsy's personal story -- the rags-to-riches climb; the passionate yet volatile marriage to Charlie Dick (Ed Harris), the man she called "the great love of her life"; and her tragic early death -- is dramatized as her music plays throughout, providing an exhilarating look at a very gifted artist.

Is it any good?

There's lots of music, all of the original Patsy Cline vocals with Jessica Lange's terrific visual performances, as well as other hits of the 1950s and '60s. Lange was Oscar-nominated for a very demanding role and Ed Harris is stunning as Charlie Dick, the passionate heel Patsy couldn't or wouldn't break free of.

However, despite the exuberance and joy of the music and the very colorful look at a time past, the movie tells a tragic story with serious issues (alcoholism, domestic abuse) about the sometimes devastating unpredictability of life.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about biographical movies. How can we determine what is true and/or what has been made up to make the story more dramatic or interesting? Does it matter? If it does, what resources are available to you to get the full story?

  •  Did watching this film make you more aware of the dangers of alcoholism? How did Charlie's drinking affect Patsy and her family?

  • There's lots of swearing and profanity in this film. In this case, is it an effective way to give the viewer a vivid picture of the characters and the emotions they're feeling? What would the film be like without the swearing?

Movie details

For kids who love true stories

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