“These Old Bones” is the first episode of DOLLY PARTON’S HEARTSTRINGS, a Netflix anthology series. Mary is an old woman with a gift of prophecy, whose prophetic warnings to neighbors challenge a powerful timber company trying to buytheir land. A pretty female lawyer from the company tries to get Mary to stop advising the neighbors. Mary, in a delightful down-home way, refuses. She notes how pretty Miss Carson is and prays for her. However, Miss Carson tries to silence Maryby using laws against witchcraft. The resulting trial is full of great moments.
“These Old Bones” elicits humor, laughter, tears, jeopardy, concerns, and a whole plethora of emotions. This is exactly what a movie or television program should do. From a Christian point of view, the movie’s setup makes you concerned that it’s going to support occultism or witchcraft. The writing is so good that, by the end of the drama, you realize Mary has a gift from God, and you discover deeper things about each major character. “These Old Bones” is one of the best crafted television dramas ever made.
Dominant Worldview and Other Worldview Content/Elements:
Very strong, overtly Christian worldview presented in the context of an old mountain woman who everyone calls a witch, with a dramatic emphasis that the woman’s gifts are gifts only from God and lots of prayer, including in the name of Jesus;
One very mild obscenity;
Flashbacks of a woman being chased through the woods and tackled by a man, mountain woman fires a shotgun to scare off trespassers and the police;
Flashbacks to very sketchy portrayal of a possible rape, references to an out-of-wedlock birth, and a focus on adoption, but no overt sex;
Smoking and/or Drug Use and Abuse:
Cigar and cigarette smoking, and no illegal drugs, but female lawyer takes prescription drugs for migraine headaches; and,
Lawyer attacks character of an old mountain woman, timber country wants to get rid of an old mountain woman to get everyone tosell their property, old mountain woman seems able to tell the future, children try to steal old woman’s pumpkin, mountain woman brought to trial, timber company chairman is hiding the fact he wants to strip mine the whole area, small town lawyer trying to defend against corporate lawyers, local people try to defend their property, businesses against the East Coast timber company, lying and cheating, but all rebuked and all resolved.
DOLLY PARTON’S HEARTSTRINGS is an extremely well-produced, well-made, entertaining anthology series based on some of her most famous songs, which were in turn based on real characters, events and episodes in her life, but not necessarily biographical.
After screening three of the episodes, MOVIEGUIDE® was astounded by the quality of the dramatic writing, which has an incredibly well-balanced orchestration of humor, drama, characters, tears, jeopardy, and plot twists and turns. MOVIEGUIDE® told the producers that it’s rare you see such well-written movies or television programs.
Each episode opens with Dolly introducing the episode from her famous theme park, Dollywood. She explains the references to her songs and to her life. Also, she presents the central premise or message of the upcoming episode. This classic storytelling creates anticipation and a desire to see the resolution of each episode.
Set in 1944, “These Old Bones” is one of the best crafted television dramas ever made. It starts by setting up the viewer’s prejudices and inexorably reveals a greater truth. Dolly Parton introduces the episode by saying that an old mountain woman, “Bones,” was the person who told her she would be a tremendous success – that she was anointed.
The story starts with three boys trespassing to find out whether Bones is a witch. They notice her trespass sign has buckshot from her side showing she shot at somebody. While one boy, Jonah, keeps watch on the grizzled old mountain womanby standing on a box and looking in the window, the two other boys try to steal her pumpkins. Bones notices, and she comes out guns blazing.
In Washington, D.C., a youngfemale lawyer named Genevieve Carson is sent by a powerful timber executive to go to the Appalachian Smokymountaintown where Bones – AKA Miss Mary Shaw – lives to stop her from revealing her vision thatpeople should not to sell their property tothe timber company. Genevieve says she grew up in that town and is the only lawyer who can solve this problem, because the others will be seen as fancy East Coast lawyers.
Cut to the young boy Jonah being driven by his local lawyer father, Landon, to apologize to Mary. Jonah is scared,as well as angry because his mother died. He feels nobody understands him. When Landon gets Jonah to finally apologize, Mary agrees to give him a week’s worth of work around her property. In the beginning, Jonah is very surly, but Mary tells him she’s not a witch, that she sometimes has a gift of vision from God. Jonah starts to open up when Mary tries to teach him how to play the banjo.
Then, Miss Carson shows up. She tries to get Mary to stopadvising other landowners and to sell her property for twice the price. Mary, in a delightful down-home way, refuses and points out how pretty Miss Carson is, and, of course,prays for her. Mary praysfrequently, clearly often to Jesus.
Miss Carson’s parents aren’t happy about her trying to force Mary to sell, and MissCarson has terrible migraines, where she has a vision each time of being chased through the woods. She takes powerful anti-migraine pills. Miss Carson is willing to do anything to win the case, including destroy Mary’s reputation. Miss Carson brings suit against Mary, noting there are still laws against witchcraft on the books in Tennessee, and this will destroy Mary. Mary doesn’t understand what’s happening and says she doesn’t need a lawyer.
However, Jonah comes to her aid. Mary agrees to let Jonah’s father be her lawyer. He counter sues the limber company for slander and libel and trying to destroy Mary’s reputation.
In court, on trial is Mary’s gift of prophecy. She’s not a fraud, she insists, and she’s not doing it for money. The trial is full of great moments and cliffhangers.
Who will win? The timber company or the sweet old mountain woman who knows how to use a shotgun?
“These Old Bones” elicits humor, laughter, tears, jeopardy, concerns, a whole plethora of emotions in the audience. This is exactly what a movie or television program should do.
From a Christian point of view, the movie’s setup makes you very concerned that it’s going to support occultism or witchcraft. The writing is so good that, by the end of the drama, you realize Mary has a gift from God, and you discover deeper things about each one of the major characters.
Any movie that can change your expectations is very good, but, for the sake of media wisdom, please explain to your children that occultism and witchcraft are bad, though that is NOT the point of this story.
“These Old Bones”is also clearly against the timber company strip mining thisbeautiful village in Tennessee, and against all the prejudices the Eastern lawyers bring with them.
However, it doesn’t oppose free enterprise because thepeople in this town are farmers and small businessmen themselves. “These Old Bones” is a wonderful program that will receive a lot of critical acclaim.
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