Top 100 Movie Review: No. 081 Nashville (1975)

Ranked 081 on the IMDB Top 100 Movies (as at May 2017). Watched August 2018.

Cast: David Arkin (Norman), Barbara Baxley (Lady Pearl), Ned Beatty (Delbert Reese), Linnea (Lily Tomlin), Karen Black (Connie White), Ronee Blakley (Barbara Jean), Timothy Brown (Tommy Brown), Keith Carradine (Tom Frank), Geraldine Chaplin (Opal), Robert DoQui (Wade), Shelley Duvall (L. A. Joan), Allen Garfield (Barnett), Henry Gibson (Haven Hamilton), Scott Glenn (Pfc. Glenn Kelly), Jeff Goldblum (Tricycle Man), Barbara Harris (Winifred)
Director: Robert Altman
My rating: 8.0 / 10

The lives of numerous people in the Tennessee capital intersect in unpredictable ways over five days of a country and gospel music festival leading up to a political rally for Replacement Party candidate. Delbert Reese (Ned Beatty) is a lawyer and political organizer who is having difficulties in his marriage to Linnea (Lily Tomlin), a gospel vocalist. Other performers heavily featured in this renowned ensemble production include country singers Barbara Jean (Ronee Blakley) and Connie White (Karen Black), who are rivals in the city’s thriving music scene.

Interacting with the male musicians is Martha (Shelley Duvall), aka L.A. Joan, a teenage groupie who has come to Nashville ostensibly to visit her sick aunt who she keeps putting off visiting in favour of chasing after male musicians.

The unnamed Tricycle Man (Jeff Goldblum) connects against a lot of these stories. As does Winifred (Barbara Harris) who is looking for her big break and after many disappointments and missed opportunities gets her chance after shooting of Barbara Jean at political rally.

What’s to Like
The music, the vast scope of the movie (also a not to like), the lack of lead character or narrative, it’s explanation of wounded and sad people.

What’s not to Like
The movie at times can be hard to follow due to it’s enormous scope.

This movie is very large in scope covering 24 main characters, an hour of musical numbers, and multiple storylines that occasionally overlap. You definitely need to pay a lot of attention to understand what is occurring and it is very hard to classify the movie. It could be classified as a musical (1 hour of singing), or documentary / drama about the Nashville music scene, or a political message about power and manipulation of people to support your candidate.

The most memorable characters in the movie include housewife and gospel singer Linnea, who loves her deaf sons, Private Glenn Kelly who stands guard over country singer Barbara Jean who he believes his mother saved from a fire, an old man grieving for his wife, and runaway wife Winifred, who rises to the occasion when she is finally gets a real opportunity after the shooting to sing to a major audience.

A number of conversations in the same scene talk over each other; usually these conversations reveal secrets or connections between characters that aren’t obvious.

An enjoyable and different type of movie well worth watching.

Academy Awards

  • Best Music, Original Song (Keith Carradine) – winner
  • Best Picture (Robert Altman) – nominee
  • Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Ronee Blakley) – nominee
  • Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Lily Tomlin) – nominee
  • Best Director (Robert Altman) – nominee

About Nathan

A World traveller who has so far experienced 71 countries (76 by June 2023) in this amazing world.
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