Robert Altman's 1975 picture remains as enigmatic as ever. The film has a huge cast of 24 actors, most of who appear in only brief scenes with few other characters. Add to this the fact that many of the lines are delivered in a flat or even seemingly improvised fashion, with a tendency for characters to interrupt and speak over each other, and it's easy to feel that the disparate characters are not connected to each other at all. This is Altman's intention though, because this film is about the hopes and ambitions of the individual within the larger society of bicentennial America.
And the plot does come together to some extent as we build to the final song, one of the most moving endings in film history in my opinion. The lyrics, sung by an unknown, interspersed with scenes of America's young in a melting pot American city, suggest a stoicism, perseverance (as one idol falls, another rises to replace her) and vitality. Even after Vietnam, Watergate, assassinations, and deep recession, crossroads America itself maintains hope and optimism. 'Nashville' suggests we are not such a young and homogenous country after all.
Among the individual islands the film explores, standouts are Ronee Blakey as the beautiful and intense but fragile diva, Hnry Gibson as the king of country, with political aspirations, and Lily Tomlin as a loving mother and gospel singer facing a marital crisis. The incredible fact that much of the music was written and performed, with little rehearsal, by many of the actors (Keith Carradine and Karen Black's musical performances are also noteworthy) lends a kind of democratic (for lack of a better word) authenticity to the film as well.