Nashville

Nashville ★★★★★

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

The ending of Nashville has always troubled me, and in some ways I think it's the perfect movie ending because the resolution is so teasingly opaque. On a very primal level I find it extremely upsetting – not so much when Ronee Blakley's Barbara Jean is hauled off the stage after being (we assume) assassinated, but when Barbara Harris comes onto the stage in the immediate aftermath and starts cheerily singing 'It Don't Worry Me.' (is it cheerful? It could also be agonised but I can never tell). I think it's a very lovely touch that she happens to be a great singer, and there'a a painful irony that her big moment finally arrives on a stage still warm with blood. But the thought process following that goes a little something like this: well, that's a cynical thing to have happen. Surely, after a crowd has witnessed a public murder, the last thing they'd want to do is engage in a euphoric singalong and have a bit of a jig? They would be high-tailing it. But then it feels so crudely cynical – Network cynical – that I'm trying to figure out what exactly is being said: political apathy is so deeply entrenched and the public so numbed to this kind of calamity post-JFK that it's simply meaningless to them now? Is Barbara Harris' newbie, whose voice has been muffled throughout the film, now famous, the premature death of Nashville's country-singing sweetheart opening the path to her artistic glory? Is it offering some kind of comment on the "American Way" where tragedy is plastered over with venal, chin-up pluck and sentimental platitudes? Nashville as a whole is a film exploring the central portion of a venn diagram where politics and art overlap, and its most interesting aspect is a subtle tug-of-war for ultimate supremacy between those disparate factions. Art is popularism, politics is antagonism. Most of the singers asked to furtively endorse Hal Phillip Walker's campaign profess to be apolitical, despite the fact that their songs are often corrosive conservative screeds set to slide guitars. Just as some cosmetics company will pay Andie McDowell to tweet about their latest product for money – in essence, she's selling her audience – Nashville depicts the early rumblings of this new media process. It probably has a name in TED talk circles, but I don't know it and I think I'd be happier if it remains that way. But that ending – I think its greatness comes down to two simple things. 1. It gives meaning to everything that has happened before it which, considering everything that's happened before it, is no mean feat. 2. It leaves you with a conundrum. In fact, it leaves you with several, but one of them is: is this a glorious victory or a crushing failure for The Replacement Party? I can never tell.