The recently released to DVD documentary from “Hollywood to Dollywood” appears on its surface to be a road trip movie — two gay brothers and a friend travel across the country in hopes of meeting their favorite singer. In reality, it is a story about the universal need for acceptance and unconditional love.

Gary and Larry Lane are twin brothers from rural North Carolina who moved to L.A. after coming out to each other in their teens and realizing their limited options for happiness in tiny Goldsboro, N.C. They found success in Hollywood scoring modeling gigs, acting roles and winning on reality shows like “Fear Factor” and “Wipeout.” But, the brothers still feel that they have unfinished business to address.

Initially, that unfinished business seems to be the duel desire to both honor their idol Dolly Parton and establish themselves as screenwriters. Gary and Larry have been working for five years on a screenplay called “Full Circle” that features a plum role for the gay icon.

As they put the finishing touches on the script, they decide that their best chance of getting of it into Parton’s hands will be to attend the 2010 25th Anniversary of Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, Tenn.

After getting some constructive criticism from their circle of friends, including Dustin Lance Black (Oscar-winning screenwriter for “Milk” and Beverly Jordan (Beverly Leslie on “Will & Grace” and east Tennessee native), the brothers and Gary’s partner of five years, Mike Bowen, set off in a rented RV named Jolene.

Yes, there are adventures along the way. The RV almost gets blown over in the tornado-like winds of the Texas panhandle. They visit a friend in Fayetteville, Ark. and sing some karaoke.

There’s a quick stop at Graceland. They have to navigate the flood-ravaged streets of downtown Nashville to meet the contact who has their Dollywood VIP passes, and they attend the “Night of 1,000 Dollys” in Knoxville.

The guys are traveling over 2,000 miles, which means there’s plenty of time to talk along the way. In conversations that are as heartbreaking as they are revealing, Gary and Larry explain to midwesterner Mike what it is like to grow up gay in the Bible belt: the pressure of keeping their sexuality a secret from their Southern Baptist family and everyone else in their small southern town; the fear of being rejected and shunned by those they loved; and the crushing realization their family may be incapable of giving them unconditional love.

Even as they reveal these harsh truths about their family and their fellow southerners, they rationalize them. It is hard to make peace with the idea that people you love can’t return the emotion.

It is especially poignant to hear the twins describe coming out to their mother at age 25. She asked them to put their hand on a Bible and swear that they were not gay. Tired of pretending, they told her the truth.

She broke down and still struggles with the fact they are gay. Her inability to accept them without condition and love them unequivocally is clearly an unresolved issue with them and is the tragic subtext of the film.

From their earliest memories of singing along to “Islands in the Stream,” the twins have always loved Parton’s music. As they began to come to terms with their sexuality and what it would mean, they found comfort in the words of her songs, her emotional generosity, and her firm belief “we’re supposed to love each other for exactly who we are.”

Juxtaposed with discussions about their mother, the brothers’ praise for Parton’s well-known attitude of acceptance and inclusion clarifies the underlying theme of their journey: Gary and Larry, like most people, desperately want to be loved for who they are.

Do the twins make it to Dollywood? Do they give the screenplay to Dolly? To answer that would give away the ending. Frankly, whether or not she agrees to star in their movie isn’t as important as the true takeaway from this film: what Dolly means to so many people, and so many gay southern men in particular: she symbolizes the kind of motherly love and unconditional acceptance is sadly elusive for many in the GLBT community.
 

Photo courtesy of Red Bull

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Photo courtesy of Rumble Boxing Gulch Nashville

Rumble Boxing Gulch, Nashville


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For two years, there’s been nothing left for us travel junkies to do but sit at home and try to find new destinations that we will conquer once we defeat what appears to be the biggest villain of the 21st century. But once that happens, hold your bags tight because we will be up for some of the most interesting travel experiences. Take a look at some ideas for your post-COVID traveling plans:

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