Prairie Home Companion
Directed by: Robert Altman
Starring: Woody Harrelson, Tommy Lee Jones, Garrison Keillor,
Kevin Kline, Lindsay Lohan, Virginia Madsen, John
C. Reilly, Maya Rudolph, Meryl Streep, Lily Tomlin
Released by: Picturehouse
Short: This star-studded comedy by Robert
Altman takes a backstage peek at a long-running
radio variety show.
in St. Paul
Cast Highlights Altman’s Latest Film
director Robert Altman and an A-plus-list ensemble cast
make this film well worth it, even if the story never
leaves the theater.
you’ve spun the radio dial on any given Saturday
evening since 1974, chances are you’ve come across
a Public Radio show from St.
Paul, Minn., called “A Prairie Home Companion.”
Hosted by the laconic Garrison Keillor, it features down-home
music, cornball jokes with perfectly timed sound effects
and a whole lot of heart.
director Robert Altman has made a movie called “A
Prairie Home Companion,” about a radio show called—wait
for it—“A Prairie Home Companion,” hosted
by the laconic Garrison Keillor and featuring down-home
music, cornball jokes, etc. The film borrows many performers
and skits from the radio show, although it’s neither
a documentary nor a re-enactment.
does it tell a gripping story—Altman’s pictures
seldom do (“Gosford Park” and “The Player”
are exceptions). The premise of this film—the show’s
last broadcast—sets up less a story than a scarecrow
on which plot points perch before darting off to places
that hardly matters thanks to Altman’s other signature:
acting at its best. Meryl Streep and Lily Tomlin are unforgettable
as remaining sisters of a gospel-singing family, and Woody
Harrelson and John C. Reilly are a hoot as Dusty and Lefty,
cowboy crooners who spin yarns with a spider’s dexterity.
Kevin Kline, Tommy Lee Jones, Virginia Madsen and Lindsay
Lohan are just some of the other famous names in the ensemble
is also a master of mood, and he’s nailed the radio
show’s understated humor, folksiness and melancholy.
The baked, burnished browns of the production design give
the film an old-time, handmade aesthetic.
Prairie Home Companion,” both in film and radio
form, conveys a sense of longing, not for the way things
were but the way things are, a holdout as the radio business
careens toward trash-talking personalities and computer
generated music. We can’t help wondering whether
the 81-year-old-and-seen-it-all Altman is also cautioning
us about the future of the movie industry.