If you want an example of why Robert Altman is held in such high esteem, and an understanding of what he basically tried to do with all of his films to some degree, you could probably do no better than to watch Nashville. While on the surface it’s a fairly simple, multi-character look at five days across the world famous music festival, it really doesn’t require much digging at all to realise that it’s actually much more of an attempt to paint a picture of America itself, a microcosm of a couple of dozen different people’s hopes and fears functioning as a broad metaphor for the entire country. It’s pretty effective at achieving this ambitious (and some might say pretentious) goal – though the reaction to the film amongst the community it portrays was initially very hostile, as many felt it was looking down on them.

But there is plenty that’s been written about all that, and rightly so. What seems to get less attention these days is the fine work done by so many of the actors on display. Ronee Blakley portrays a tragic country singer superstar (reportedly modelled on Loretta Lynn) with such natural ease, performing all her own songs herself, that’s hard to believe this was her first film role. It also made a bona fide star out of Keith Carradine, who won an Oscar for writing and performing the original song “I’m Easy” specifically for the film. And of course the wonderful Lily Tomlin, until this point a comedian and not considered a serious actor, almost steals the entire movie with an affecting performance as a mother of two deaf children who has an affair with Carradine. As undoubtedly influential and groundbreaking as Altman’s work was here (and in pretty much all of his 70s stuff to be honest), Nashville is more of an ensemble movie than many think.

A functioning snapshot of 1970s America9
Possible snobbery towards the country music scene5
Robert Altman's undeniable influence on American cinema9
Ronee Blakley and Keith Carradine's singing9
Lily Tomlin's seamless transition from comedian to serious actor10
Bechdel Test Passes
  • Features more than one named female character
  • The female characters talk to each other
  • They talk about something other than men
Bechdel Test Failures
  • n/a
8Overall Score

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