I’ve been consistently unsure of where I stand on Robert Altman as a director. The one thing I feel I can say about him, though, is that he seems to be able to get away with anything. Well, that, and he has an impeccable eye for detail, no matter what subject he is concentrating on. It was the military in MASH, and Hollywood in The Player, but here, here he shows us just how ludicrously detail-oriented he is as a person. Nashville has so much crammed into its 2 1/2 hour running time that I was left bewildered by it all. Amusing side-note; Altman reportedly had enough footage for this film to make it four hours long, but chose to keep it the length that it is. Frankly, I’m thankful for that, but at the same time, it feels like Nashville doesn’t have enough to it, which given how much actually is in this film, is a rather stupid notion.
A plot summary for this film would be irrelevant, indistinct, and, if pressed for elaboration, would easily take up the rest of this review. Suffice it to say, the film deals with a menagerie of characters over several days in the city of Nashville, all looking to achieve their dreams or aspirations, and whose storylines all converge at a benefit concert for a Presidential nominee. A real menagerie it is, and that leads into the main issue I had with Nashville; there’s so much happening all over the screen that we are barely able to keep track of only some of it. I’m sure this will make repeat viewings of this especially rewarding, but I just couldn’t see myself watching this over and over again; it wasn’t interesting enough to warrant the effort needed to keep everything in line. Now, I will say that this is probably due to me not being in the film’s demographic; music lovers (especially country), citizens of Nashville, and people looking to explore the various connections that tie various people together will fit better with what Nashville tries to sell. On another day, when my head was in a different frame of mind, I might’ve appreciated this more, and to the film’s credit, there is an awful lot here to appreciate, but even with the foreknowledge that this film would be a melting pot of characters and storylines and musical numbers, I still felt myself wondering if I had missed something important or whether I should’ve made some connection I hadn’t. Wikipedia’s plot summary for this is an overly long one, and helped to tie some things together that I knew I had missed, but this film had me wishing I could’ve kept everything straight the first time around, so I wouldn’t have to look up what I hadn’t gotten or have to sit through it once or twice more just to get a handle on things.
I haven’t seen all of Altman’s films on the list yet, let along the rest of his work, but there’s just something about Nashville that says “This is Robert Altman’s masterpiece” to me. Really, I’m giving it an extra point for managing to accomplish what it does in a relatively scant two-and-a-half hours; seriously, there is just a ridiculous amount of material stuffed into this film, and while the above paragraph, having been written while I was watching the film, indicated my reluctance towards the film while it was happening, when it was over I was surprised I had found myself warming to it a little bit. There were definitely parts about it I didn’t enjoy, but with how much is offered, it ended up being a small percentage. I was frustrated with trying to keep everything in my head while I was watching it, but I can look back on it a little kinder now that it’s over. Again, though, I don’t think I could see myself watching this one again for some time, if at all.
Arbitrary Rating: 8/10