Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBBB.
USA, 1975. ABC Entertainment, American Broadcasting Company, Paramount Pictures. Screenplay by Joan Tewkesbury. Cinematography by Paul Lohmann. Produced by Robert Altman. Music by Arlene Barnett, Jonnie Barnett, Karen Black, Ronee Blakley, Gary Busey, Juan Grizzle, Allan F. Nicholls, Dave Peel, Joe Raposo. Production Design by Robert M. Anderson. Film Editing by Dennis M. Hill, Sidney Levin. Academy Awards 1975. Golden Globe Awards 1975. National Board of Review Awards 1975. New York Film Critics Awards 1975.
Robert Altman’s masterful cross-section of classic Americana is still a terrific, fascinating mosaic of stories even after all these years. The multi-plotted narrative follows a huge group of characters as they interact with each other during a country music festival in Nashville, Tennessee. Lily Tomlin is unforgettable as the mother of two deaf children who must figure out what to do when a playboy folk singer (Keith Carradine) comes to town to start a love affair with her. Gwen Welles plays a tone-deaf hopeful star whose dreams end in degradation, Keenan Wynn tries to get his errant niece (Shelley Duvall) to visit his wife in the hospital, while next door the jewel of country music (Ronee Blakley) lies ill from over-exhaustion. There’s also Geraldine Chaplin as a snooty BBC reporter, Karen Black as another successful singer, cameos by Julie Christie and Elliott Gould as themselves, and so very much more! Then, there’s the music: the soundtrack never stops pumping out one twangy tune after another, most of which were written by the actors who sing them (as per Altman’s encouragement). The best of the bunch are some beautiful numbers sung by Blakely, the Gary Busey-written “Since You’ve Gone” (which he was to perform until he was replaced by Carradine) and the Oscar-winning ballad “I’m Easy” by Carradine.