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SONGWRITER (director: Alan Rudolph; screenwriter: Bud Shrake; cinematographer: Matthew F. Leonetti; editors: Stephen Lovejoy/George A. Martin/Stuart H. Pappé; music: Larry Cansler; cast: Kris Kristofferson (Blackie Buck), Willie Nelson (Doc Jenkins), Melinda Dillon (Honey Carder), Rip Torn (Dino McLeish), Lesley Ann Warren (Gilda), Richard C Sarafian (Rodeo Rocky); Runtime: 94; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Sydney Pollack; Tri-Star Pictures; 1984)
“If you’re fans of country music and especially of Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson, you should love this free-wheeling road film.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Alan Rudolph (“Welcome to LA”/”Choose Me”/”The Moderns”) directs this genial carefree dramatic Country & Western musical. Rudolph was asked by producer Sydney Pollack on short notice to direct (taking over for Steve Rash after two weeks of filming), nevertheless coming aboard at the last minute Rudolph’s Songwriter turns out to be a modestly enjoyable, comical, breezy, fast-paced and quirky good ol’ boy bonding buddy film: one that rocks! It’s written by Bud Shrake. If you’re fans of country music and especially of Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson, you should love this free-wheeling road film.

It has country and western performer Doc Jenkins (Willie Nelson) breaking up his partnership with Blackie Buck (Kris Kristofferson) and after signing a deal with a shark promoter, Rodeo Rocky (Richard C Sarafian), fighting to regain his independence, his wealth and control of his artistry rights he lost in making this deal with the devil. Lesley Ann Warren plays the neurotic tortured up-and-coming female singer Gilda, who fronts for Doc when he’s unable to perform his own songs and gets the songwriting credits so that Rocky is left out of the financial rewards. In Doc’s plot to get even with Rodeo Rocky, he also must turn for support to his pal Blackie. When Doc forms a new publishing company, he lists Blackie as the owner.

The two stars play fictionalized versions of themselves, with Doc Jenkins as the respected superstar of country music who has had it with the business-side to the music as he makes an effort to outsmart the greedy entrepreneur who cheated him and Blackie Buck is the good-natured rebel who exists to carouse, sing and help out old pals.

In this shaggy dog flick all the characters are flawed and lovable, even the villain. It doesn’t amount to much in theme or story, but it’s as hearty and zesty and full of attitude as your typical Willie or Kris country song. It has twelve pleasing songs, all composed by Nelson and Kristofferson.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”