Robert Altman’s masterpiece is the very definition of a sprawling, multi-character narrative, not unlike 1999’s “Magnolia” or 2006’s “Bobby,” only with multiple filmed concert performances interspersed throughout. It’s the kind of all-star ensemble pieces that doesn’t really have a plot per se, but instead goes from character to character over the course of a few days prior to a political convention in Nashville, Tennessee, before finally linking them together in the end. Among the many, many famous faces, there are a number of stand-out performances, like Karen Black, Ned Beatty and the fascinating Barbara Harris, but the movie ultimately belongs to Ronee Blakley, whose overly mannered performance eventually reveals unforeseen truths and underlines her careful, subtle approach. Altman liberally employs the emblematically Altmanesque sound method of multiple overlapping conversations set to slow-motion pan shots, which has a vivid, “you are there” effect on the viewer that transcends even the decades since the movie’s release. There are as many concert scenes throughout the movie as there are non-musical scenes, with many country-and-western singers popping up to sing memorable country music on various stages, and although I’ve never been much of a country music fan, the music here is absolutely irresistible.
Rating: ★★★★★ (out of 5)