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Monday, June 05, 2006

A Prairie Home Companion

Director Robert Altman and writer Garrison Keillor collaborate with an all-star cast to create a comic backstage fable, A Prairie Home Companion. Filmed in Keillor's home state of Minnesota, the film is based on the beloved A Prairie Home Companion, one of the longest running programs on public radio in North America.

A Prairie Home Companion
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Backstage, onstage and around the aging theatre, the movie imagines a fateful final broadcast of a show that has been given the axe by a soulless Texas corporation. Meryl Streep and Lily Tomlin star as the Johnson Sisters, Yolanda and Rhonda, a country duet act that has survived the county-fair circuit, and Lindsay Lohan plays Yolanda's daughter, Lola, who gets her big chance to sing on the show and then forgets the words. Kevin Kline is Guy Noir, a private eye down on his luck who moonlights as a backstage doorkeeper, and Woody Harrelson and John C. Reilly are Dusty and Lefty, a singing cowboy act.

Add Garrison Keillor himself in the role of emcee for a playful story set on a rainy Saturday night, where fans file into the Fitzgerald Theatre to see A Prairie Home Companion, not knowing its been sold and that tonight's show will be the last.

Starring: Meryl Streep (The Hours, Adaptation)
Lily Tomlin (I Heart Huckabees, Tea with Mussolini)
Kevin Kline (The Pink Panther, A Fish Called Wanda)
Woody Harrelson (North Country, After the Sunset)
John C. Reilly (Chicago, Magnolia)
Lindsay Lohan (Mean Girls, Freaky Friday)
Tommy Lee Jones (The Missing, Space Cowboys)
Virginia Madsen (Firewall, Sideways)

A Prairie Home Companion A Prairie Home Companion
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Review: I didn’t know shit about this movie before seeing it, other than the fact that it was a Robert Altman film, and that it featured a ton of actors, as per his usual style. Well…my bad!! As it turns out, it’s basically a friggin’ radio show filmed as a stage play featuring a bunch of characters talking over one another (again, as per Altman’s usual style) and then singing country/bluegrass/gospel tunes along the way. There’s no plot per se, just a bunch of people yappin’ on about old times, as it turns out that this would be the last radio show for their particular program called “The Prairie Home Companion”. I can’t imagine this film appealing to anyone other than fans of Robert Altman, fans of this actual radio program or fans of the sort of music that I described above. It’s not a “bad movie” per se, but there’s no real story here, and none of the characters are developed to any real point that you care about them. It’s basically about the music and the chemistry between all of the characters backstage, and to a certain extent, that’s somewhat appealing, but again, to me…I don’t particularly care for Altman flicks, radio or that type of music, so most of the time, I was just peeking at my watch, the lights in the movie theater or Lindsay Lohan’s backside (a man’s gotta relax). The actors were all pretty good, so that made it a little easier, with Meryl Streep and Lily Tomlin continuing the wonderful chemistry which they demonstrated at last year’s Oscars with seamless repartee between them.

Lohan was also solid and made a wise career move here, as part of an ensemble. She also underplayed her character, which was smart. Woody Harrelson and John C. Reilly also seemed to be having a good time, so it was fun to watch them, and my favorite joke among theirs was (“I think my wife might have died.” “Why do you think that?” “Well, the sex is the same, but the dishes are stacking up.”) The man leading the show in the film (and in real life) is Garrison Keillor, who also wrote the film’s screenplay, and you can see how it all comes so easily to him. He was inspiring to watch. Kevin Kline played an over-the-top character named Guy Noir who had some funny lines, but whose pratfalls felt out of place in the movie, while Virginia Madsen walked around like an angel, and didn’t really bring all that much to the proceedings. Tommy Lee Jones was also wasted and didn’t chase one person during the entire picture or look inside any warehouse, farmhouse, henhouse, outhouse and doghouse. All in all, the film felt cozy and heartwarming, but again, it’s geared toward those who appreciate the elements that I mentioned above, which I simply don’t. Then again, I hated GOSFORD PARK with a passion, and some folks seemed to enjoy that flick, so it’s definitely a “person sensibility” issue on this one.

(c) 2006 Berge Garabedian, JoBlo's Movie Reviews

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