A Prairie Home Companion
Rated PG-13; Directed by Robert Altman; Starring Garrison Keillor, Kevin Kline, Meryl Streep, Lily Tomlin, Lindsay Lohan, Virginia Madsen, Tommy Lee Jones
“A Prairie Home Companion” is one of those delightful films that work if you are willing to just sit back and accept the concept. Based on Garrison Keillor’s popular radio show, the movie uses the tales and characters of the show to tell a story with heart and wit and even throws in a little of the supernatural. Do you have to be a listener of the radio show to enjoy the movie? It does help, but this Robert Altman-directed film offers plenty of laughs for even the newcomer to Keillor’s sly humor.
It’s the last night that the radio show, “A Prairie Home Companion,” will broadcast live from the Fitzgerald Theater in Minnesota. A corporation has bought the theater and plans to demolish it for a parking lot, leaving the show’s performers without a job. Of course, there’s G.K. (Garrison Keillor), the loquacious host who doesn’t let anything get in the way of a good story, even the start of the show. There’s Yolanda (Meryl Streep) and Rhonda (Lily Tomlin) Johnson, the singing sisters. Yolanda doesn’t understand her daughter, Lola (Lindsay Lohan), with her morbid poetry and negative attitude. There’s Dusty (Woody Harrelson) and Lefty (John C. O’Reilly), a pair of singing cowboys whose humor veers towards the low side. Then there’s Guy Noir, private eye (Kevin Kline), who works as security for the show. His interest on this last night of employment is a mysterious woman wearing a white trench coat (Virginia Madsen). Things get even more interesting when the corporate executive arrives (Tommy Lee Jones).
Director Robert Altman, with his love of multiple storylines, has a fun time here. He takes us backstage during the show, then moves us onstage, and then back to the dressing rooms to show us the lives of the people involved in the show. Containing his story to one building also helps keep Altman on track.
With a cast like this and Keillor’s gentle script, there are so many good moments. My favorites were the challenging additions to Tom Keith’s sound effect duties and Dusty and Lefty’s joke song (yes, my humor also veers to the low side). We also get plenty of opportunity to watch many of the regular Prairie Home Companion performers, including singers Rob and Linda Williams, Jerralyn Steele, and others.
The cast is marvelous, the music wonderful, and the story is sweet. Enjoy this funny and quirky film.