Haven Hamilton: You get your hair cut. You don’t belong in Nashville.
F: Me neither.
R: This is a film that you’ve got to pay close attention to. The cast is massive and I certainly found on this first viewing I had to work quite hard to remember exactly who’s who. But the way it’s all woven together is very clever.
F: Twenty-four characters apparently so I agree, a lot to keep up on! They are all quite distinct though in their personality and look so I didn’t have much trouble keeping track of everyone. I was most impressed with the fact that none of the characters seemed secondary. All seemed real people and well developed.
R: It’s full of great characters. I particularly loved Henry Gibson as Haven Hamilton, the patriotic country singer with a bit of an inferiority complex; Michael Murphy as John Triplette, the cynical and smarmy political operator; and Geraldine Chaplin as Opal, in perhaps the funniest of all the roles as the pathetically naïve BBC reporter. But singling those three out almost feels unfair because no one character dominates and there isn’t a weak performance here.
F: Agreed it’s all very strong across the board. This is one of the longer films we’ve watched recently on the list. Did it feel overlong to you or about right?
R: I think the length is justified by the breadth of what the film is covering. You need all the characters to give you a real sense of what Nashville (the place) is all about. I was thinking maybe you could cut some the songs, but I think by the end I accepted the Country music is an integral part of establishing the place and tone.
F: It’s almost another musical! I loved the songs. The I’m Easy song which Tom sings in the bar is a lovely song and I found myself getting completely swept up in it. That and I’ve still got 200 years in my head!
R: At the start of the film – when you get that very nationalistic 200 years song – I was a little worried this was going to be a film where Hollywood looks down its nose at middle America. But it’s like, say, South Park, where everyone is the butt of the joke, so it doesn’t feel cruel or condescending. Arguably the English come out of it worse than anyone in Tennessee!
F: Yes certainly more naive! [SPOILER WARNING] What do you think about the ending? I almost turned to you during the scene where Barbara Jean first sings and has a nervous breakdown that the greasy guy had a gun in his case. Plus the assassination clues!
R: Yes, it is so heavily foreshadowed that I’d almost argue you could do without that spoiler warning, but some people are very sensitive about these things! I like that there are two ways you can read the ending (where the rally continues despite the assassination): you can either see that the Nashville spirit is indefatigable and nothing can bring it down, or that the Nashville spirit is so corrupt and used to papering over problems that even murder can be shrugged off. It mirrors the overall tone of the film perfectly.
F: Plus the woman (Albuquerque) who basically drags herself through the film manages to have her moment! It’s a complete contrast to the Sueleen Gay character who gets all the breaks but is silent at the end. [END SPOILER]
R: Although Sauleen Gay also has the worst ordeal to go through in the entire film; I found her strip scene really very uncomfortable to watch. Perhaps the most impressive thing about the film – aside from how well it juggles its two dozen characters – is how it makes the dark moments sit so well alongside the light.
F: Oh I completely agree she has the worst time! She’s there for ridicule and I felt bad laughing at (not with) her character at times. But again it’s a testament as to how the film manages to develop all of its characters as individuals and make them memorable.
Is it worthy of the top 100?
R: Genuinely quite unlike any film I’ve seen before and totally successful with it. A big yes.
F: I loved it. Yes from me too!