"SWEET DREAMS" is like "Coal Miner's Daughter," but without the grit. It's a slow, insensate musical biography, with the unfortunate Jessica Lange miscast as country singer Patsy Cline.
The physical and emotional opposite of the coarse Cline, Lange looks like a refugee from a dude ranch in her western gear, her delicate features overwhelmed by a raggedy black wig and a rhinestone cowgirl's hat. She croons into the smokey, liquor-soaked night of a honky- tonk saloon, "I Fall to Piecessss . . . ."
But Lange can't sing a lick, so she lip-syncs the late Cline's hits, trying in vain to look like she's belting them out. Instead she seems like a very sincere angel fish, bubbling up air. And lip-syncing is the aural equivalent of plastic slip covers anyhow.
Cline, who herself sang like a cat on a lonely night, catapulted to fame following a successful appearance on the "Arthur Godfrey Show." When she died in an airplane crash six years later at age 30, she was already legendary.
Writer Robert Getchell turns this potentially thrilling story into a pokey romance, a numbing progression of scenes from Cline's marriage to Charlie Dick, apparently an abusive but sexually satisfying sot. Ed Harris, who seems to be making a specialty of such parts these days, has this thankless role.
The mismatched Harris and Lange spit and claw, grope and paw at each other unconvincingly in a variety of dingy locations, including the kitchen floor under a skillet of hot, greasy frying chicken. The chicken is more convincing.
Costar Ann Wedgeworth, however, redeems a few scenes as Patsy's down-to-earth mother, a performance that makes the other actors seem as out of place in her little kitchen as hummus at a hoedown. -