Five days in the Nashville country and gospel music scene, filled with stars, wannabe stars, and other hangers-on - individual stories of this small group intertwined - provides a commentary on American society. The stars include: good ol' boy Haven Hamilton, whose patriotic songs leading up to the American bicentennial belie his controlling and ruthless nature; Barbara Jean, the country music darling who is just returning to Nashville and performing following recovery from a fire-related injury which may have taken more of an emotional toll than a physical one; and good looking and charismatic Tom Frank, one-third of the successful group Bill, Mary, and Tom, he who is trying to go solo, which masks his need to not be solo in his personal life as he emotionally abuses woman after woman in love with him, including Mary who is married to Bill. The wannabe stars include: Albuquerque, whose real name is Winifred, who is trying to run away from her husband Star in he not approving of her ...Written by
Award winning fiddler and actor Johnny Gimble makes a cameo appearance during the last big stage scene when he does a "walk on" with his fiddle and joins fiddler Vassar Clements and the rest of the band as they perform. See more »
In the scene at the Grand Ol' Opry, Haven Hamilton gives the zip code for Vanderbilt Hospital as "27322". The hospital's zip code is actually "37232". See more »
"Nashville" is supposed to be Robert Altman's best movie. But I have to say, I just didn't get it! The movie is like some kind of surreal satire on the city of Nashville, and the state of America in the 1970's. It's Nashville...but it's like an alternate universe Nashville where the people talk endlessly, on and on, about nothing! It's like "Seinfeld" without the jokes or character development.
This Nashville is filled with people who are completely clueless about how superficial their lives are, who seem to have no idea how stupid they are. A key scene early on involves a multi-car pile-up on the interstate. But instead of running around from car to car asking "Is everyone all right? Is anyone hurt?", the people in the pile-up (who are all, by strange coincidence, characters in the movie) seem more annoyed that this accident will make them late for dinner, or to whatever they have to go to. They talk with each other, exchange phone numbers, buy and sell goods, eat popsicles bought from an ice cream. Nobody seems phased that they've just been through a massive near-death experience. These are not "people," they are "characters in a social commentary."
Altman's take on the country music industry is very strange. In this version of Nashville, there are a lot of country music singers who can't sing! I don't just mean the "wannabe singers" like Suleen Gay (Gwen Welles) who is too stupid to realize she doesn't have any talent. I mean established country stars like Tommy Brown (Timmy Brown), Haven Hamilton (Henry Gibson), and Connie White (Karen Black), who are singing onstage at the Grand Ole Opry, but who have limited pitch ranges, and slide their notes up and down the scale as they sing. These "country stars" wouldn't last 30 seconds at an "American Idol" audition. Simon Cowell would eat them alive and spit them out!
Most of the songs in the movie seem to be country song pastiches. (One song includes the lyrics, "The pilot light of our love has gone out" and "If makin' love is margarine, then you're a slippery spread.") Only occasionally do we get a sincere, well-sung country song, like Keith Carradine's "I'm Easy." Ronnie Blakely has a good role as a Loretta Lynn-style country singer who has an onstage meltdown at Opryland. But even her onstage meltdown seems phony -- it is a caricature of an onstage meltdown written by a Hollywood screenwriter. (Did she really need to make chicken sounds onstage to make the point that she was cracking up?)
The city of Nashville seems to have gone insane, but nobody seems to notice. A sound truck drives around, blaring political arguments for a populist presidential candidate. A man (Jeff Goldblum) rides around on a three-wheel motorcycle, stopping occasionally to do magic tricks. An annoying British journalist (Geraldine Chapman) keeps showing up at parties and bars and sticking her microphone in people's faces, asking them questions and ignoring their answers.
And of course, people talk, non-stop, about nothing in particular, in Altman's trademark overlapping dialogue, for two hours and forty minutes. This form of movie dialogue may be considered realistic, but in this case, I found it very boring.
Yes, I know, Altman was making a comment on the times, and the 1970's were a very surreal and superficial time. But the fact that Altman captured the surreal, superficial qualities of the 70's doesn't necessarily mean it's an interesting movie. I found the characters dull, the dialogue boring, and the plot fairly nonsensical. If I ever pass through this Nashville, remind me to stay on the bus to Memphis.
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