Is there anything more American than country music? And on the eve of the bicentennial, hoo doggies! In Nashville, we’re transported to, uh, Nashville and witness different characters tied in to country music while they all gather together, at the end, for a political rally. Just a few key characters are Barbara Jean (Ronee Blakley), the current queen of country music, who collapses from exhaustion at the airport. There’s Haven Hamilton (Henry Gibson), who might have once been the king of country, but now he walks around in his white bedazzled jumpsuit and sports an obvious hairpiece. And Opal (Geraldine Chaplin) is a journalist from the BBC who is just fascinated by all things American.
The main thing to remember about this film is that it is 1975. Recently there’s been the moon landing, Woodstock, the Civil Rights Movement and three key assassinations. These key moments have shaped the people and events that run this film and it’s really brilliant to think about.
The great thing about this film is how it explores American culture and Nashville is the perfect setting. When a twenty car pile up happens, it turns into a party where country music hopefuls practice together and swap stories, only inconveniencing the big stars. The city isn’t just attracting backwoods rednecks anymore, blacks and hippies are bringing their own sounds and it’s catching on, bringing more desperation on Hamilton’s jumpsuit.
Driving around Nashville non stop is a van spreading the message about Hal Philip Walker running for president and hosting the big rally at the end of the film. The van plays his droning recordings, and at times they become a soundtrack to the film.
Some fun bits I really enjoyed and could identify with were when Opal is at a junkyard talking about America’s excessive graveyard of cars. During the Grand Ole Opry there’s an advertisement for GooGoo Clusters, which I’ve only found on a pit stop in Georgia, but they are goo-ood. And there’s a scene at an early Nascar race. There’s so many “only in America” moments I wanted to drag my couch on the porch to watch the rest of the movie.
Imagine how this film would be made today. We’re living the post 9-11 America under our first Black president who’s trying to give us universal healthcare and all the ignorant rednecks afraid of change, but smart enough to toss their clan cloaks, are taking to the streets with picket signs while the rest of us live vicariously through the internet and the children are forgotten and getting fat as hippos. We don’t have respect for other cultures. Country songs now include the lyrics like, “We’ll put a boot up your ass, because it’s the American way.” We defend bratty kids who use American symbols as a form of bullying. There seems to be a new bomb threat in Times Square every day. And now Arizona’s got this ridiculous immigration law. God bless America.