To a certain extent, the validity of these complaints about the film are a matter of opinion. But it does seem likely that the script softened Cline's harder edges and over-emphasized the stormy nature of her marriage in order to cast her in the role of victim. What isn't opinion is the way the film treats her career: it didn't happen like that, and while the film presents her as a great star at the time of her death in truth she had released only a handful of widely distributed records by 1963--and while some of them were big hits, they weren't quite as big as you might think. Even the celebrated "Sweet Dreams" never made it to the top spot on any music chart, and it was not until well after her death that she received full recognition for her remarkable work.
So instead of truth, or even a good approximation of it, SWEET DREAMS gives us the legend, the folk tale of the rough-and-tumble girl with the big, emotional voice who came from no where, married an abusive husband, and leaped into stardom that was cut short by an untimely death. And as legend, the film works very well.
The weak point of the film is the script, which plays largely to a "domestic drama" aspect and tends to smooth out the characters in a "santized for your protection" sort of way. The direction and cinematography are no great shakes either, and ultimately SWEET DREAMS looks very much like a made-for-television movie. But the cast carries it off in fine style. Jessica Lang looks no more like Patsy Cline than I do, and her lip-scynchs to Cline's work is rather hit-and-miss, but she gives a truly memorable performance; Ed Harris equals her in the role of husband Charlie, and together they create a synergy that has tremendous power. The supporting cast is also quite good, with Ann Wedgeworth a standout in the role of Cline's mother Hilda.
And then there is that soundtrack. Even if you've heard all these songs a thousand times, they're still worth hearing again. Patsy Cline was truly an amazing artist. But the film does something odd with them: the bulk of the story is set during the 1950s, but there is not a 1950s-era Cline vocal to be heard in the entire film, everything is taken from her glory years at MCA between 1960 and 1963. And very often it seemed to me that the original scoring of Cline's songs had been replaced with new arrangements.
And that, ultimately, is rather typical of the film as a whole. Just a little change here, just a little inaccuracy there, and while they all seem slight individually, they add up to a fairly significant distortion collectively. The performances make it worth watching, and they bring it in at a solid four stars. But if you're expecting anything more than the glossy legend of Patsy Cline, you won't find it here.
Gary F. Taylor, aka GFT, Amazon Reviewer