BP’s Top 100 Movie Challenge #54: Nashville, by Sarah Brinks
I decided to undertake a movie challenge in 2017. This seemed like a good way to see some classic movies that I have unfortunately never seen. The Battleship Pretension Top 100 list provided such a challenge.
This was the first time I ever watched Robert Altman’s Nashville. I know that this is a movie I would get more out of with multiple viewings but I have to go off of my initial viewing only. As with any Altman film the cast is enormous and full of great performances.
I will start this review by admitting that country music is not my favorite genre of music. I don’t hate country but I am selective about the country music I listen to. There are a number of great musical performances in the film. Barbara Jean’s first live appearance is a lot of fun until she starts to lose it, as is her performance at the rally until the end. Sueleen Gay’s performances were all painful, especially her last performance when she is forced to strip for a room full of horny men at a fundraiser. Her voice is terrible but she has a dream and she willing to do what she has to in order to achieve it. My favorite performance of a song is Tom Frank’s “I’m Easy” to Lily Tomlin’s character Linnea. The slow pan into her face as she watches him sing is equally beautiful and sad.
I can’t be the only person that this happens to but sometimes watching movies from the 1960s or 1970s I see actors whom I only know from films they made more recently and it is hard to believe they were ever that young. Like seeing pictures of your parents when they were teenagers and you suddenly realize they were people before they were your parents. I experienced that feeling with a number of actors in this film. Henry Gibson played Nashville star Haven Hamilton and I have only ever really known him as Doctor Klopeck from The ‘Burbs. Seeing him in his absurd rhinestone getups and singing country songs threw me for a loop. Keith Carradine plays Tom Frank, a handsome singer and guitar player of a country trio. I’ve seen Carradine in a number of roles over the last decade such in Deadwood or Dexter and he was always a handsome older gentleman but he was a real heartthrob in Nashville, he was also an impressive singer. That feeling of unconfirmed recognition plagued my viewing of the film.
I love the way screenwriter Joan Tewkesbury intertwines all the various storylines throughout the film. The sad story of man with the sick wife feels equally as important as Barbara Jean’s recovery. While other characters just add a little local color like the man on the tricycle motorcycle or the woman who wants to be a singer and takes the stage after Barbara Jean is shot. Just like in real life, everyone is the star of their own story and we are often connected in tenuous ways. The film didn’t really come together for me until the final rally scene. But the ending did really work for me and helped elevate the rest of the film as a result. As I stated at the top of this article, I think I will get more from this film every time I see it.
I’ve decided to rate each film using an arbitrary scale based on the board game Battleship (lowest: Destroyer, Submarine, Cruiser, Battleship, highest: Carrier)
Nashville ranking: Cruiser