“I got cheated, and I wanna get even.”
A country-western songwriter (Willie Nelson) tries to get out of a corrupt contract with his agent (Richard C. Sarafian) by having an aspiring singer (Lesley Ann Warren) put her name on his songs.
Alan Rudolph was called in at the last minute to direct this amiable, rambling tale about politics and survival in the country music industry, and his influence shows. More concerned with character than narrative, Songwriter introduces us to a host of quirky individuals — Willie Nelson’s “Doc” (essentially a variation on himself), Kris Kristofferson’s Blackie Buck, Rip Torn’s Dino McLeish, and Lesley Ann Warren’s Gilda — and then explores their interactions with one another as Doc attempts to get around the constraints of his binding contract with buffoonish bad-guy Rodeo Rocky (Richard Sarafian). Meanwhile, Doc rekindles a romance with his first wife (Melinda Dillon) and two young daughters, while Warren struggles to calm her stage fright by tippling hard liquor on the sly. Songwriter is the kind of movie that slowly grows on you, thanks in large part to Nelson’s sympathetic performance as Doc (he’s a genuinely nice guy) and Warren’s bold depiction of Gilda as a lost and nervous soul. (Strangely, Kristofferson’s character isn’t written very strongly, and he fails to make much of an impact.) The film is least effective when it’s explicitly aiming for broad laughs — whenever Sarafian and his henchmen are on-screen, for instance — but these moments are mercifully few.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Lesley Ann Warren as Gilda
- Willie Nelson as Doc Jenkins
No, but it’s worth a look, particularly for fans of country-western music.