‘Nashville’ Review: Politics and Country Music

Posted in Screening Room by - February 16, 2016

Robert Altman is one of those filmmakers with such a wide filmography that it’s easy to miss so many of the films he’s done. For years, I’ve slowly caught on with his filmography, and I had been meaning to watch Nashville so I was very happy to have been assigned to watch it for this month. Often the thing with filmmakers with a filmography the size of Altman’s is that they don’t always have hits. Even those that are considered great like MASH can be disappointments. Sadly, this is how I felt about Nashville.

Not to be confused with the TV show, Nashville covers five days of a group of country musicians as they’ve gathered for a Republican rally, ahem, I mean, Replacement Party rally. What we get is a huge cast of characters dealing with denial, recovering from accidents and health problems, crumbling marriages, being in situations and places they can’t really adapt to, and with their talents being ignored. You have the likes here of Lily Tomlin, Scott Glenn, Shelley Duvall, Keith Carradine and so many others making appearances here. Although many of their appearances are brief and may leave an audience feeling they were short-changed or underdeveloped, I thought they were developed enough to make us care about them and follow them in their journey.

The movie is directed in widescreen by Robert Altman, wisely using every single inch of the 2.35:1 frame. His use of overlapping dialogue and naturalistic cinematography makes everything feel real and gives an almost documentary-like sense of style to the film. There are moments in the film that are funny and surprising, and the performances are all excellent.

So far, it seems like I’m singing the film’s praises so why did I call it a disappointment? Well, I just didn’t feel a strong attachment to the film. Although there was a structure to it, I felt that it kept jumping around too much. Scenes were shown and didn’t seem to have any real consequence on the story. But also, the movie is something of a musical and although I don’t hate country music, any musical can be a problem if you don’t like the songs. It’s not that the songs in Nashville are bad because they aren’t, but I just didn’t take to them. There are many concert and performance scenes throughout the film and all feel like they last way too long. If you don’t like the music, these sequences are going to feel all the more difficult to sit through.

The movie didn’t leave me with much. I really wanted to like it more, but I just didn’t feel it. It took way too long for me to get to any really interesting place. The movie is considered something of a classic and it’s so full of many great things that lead me to believe that it just wasn’t for me. Hence, I’m very hesitant in giving it the “skip it” rating. If you feel like watching it, by all means, watch it. It’s part of the filmography of a great director and you may end up agreeing with the many people who’ve sung its praises since its release. But be aware that you may end up feeling disappointed by it as well like I did. Nashville isn’t a bad film, it just isn’t as good as I was hoping it would be.

Final Say: Skip It

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