Blu-Ray Review: Come Back to the 5 and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean (1982)

Come Back to the 5 and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean, is pure, stripped back, character-driven cinema.

After the critical high point of Nashville in the mid-1970’s, Robert Altman struggled with the changing face of Hollywood moviemaking, as the ingenue crowd he joined in bringing to bear the ‘New Hollywood’ wave that replaced the decayed studio system at the end of the 1960’s began to fade under the weight of the blockbuster franchise era. Altman, with his aggressive naturalistic style, his gutsy brand of raw Americana, struggled to find a place amongst the Star Wars and Jaws monster-hits of the burgeoning 1980’s and following the critical failure of Popeye—a film not typically in his wheelhouse—Altman spent the remainder of the 80’s in a self-imposed exile, determined to make the pictures he wanted to make outside of the Hollywood mainstream.

Jimmy Dean—as we’ll refer to this simply as now for ease—is a perfect example of Altman’s two-fingered salute to the New New Hollywood. Set entirely in one location, the titular small-town ‘5 and dime’, with a tiny cast of (almost) all-female characters, and tackling themes and ideas as diverse as social transformation of American life, religious rejection and changing gender, Jimmy Dean is defiantly un-cinematic, almost intentionally. It moves fast, throws a brace of dialogue at the audience from the first moment, and expects you to keep in step with a multi-layered facet of complex, emotionally damaged characters living their own strangely melancholic fantasy.