A Prairie Home Companion

A Prairie Home Companion
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A look at what goes on backstage during the last broadcast of America's most celebrated radio show, where singing cowboys Dusty and Lefty, a country music siren, and a host of others hold court

Title:A Prairie Home Companion
Release Date:June 9, 2006
Runtime:
Genres:Drama, Comedy, Music
Production Co.:River Road Entertainment, GreeneStreet Films, Picturehouse Entertainment, Sandcastle 5 Productions, Prairie Home Productions
Production Countries:United States of America
Director:Robert Altman, Dru Anne Carlson
Writers:, ,
Casts:, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Plot Keywords:usa, country music, commercial, radio presenter, radio transmission, bühnenauftritt, backstage, singer
Alternative Titles:
  • Radio America - [IT]
  • El último show - [ES]
  • 大家來我家 - [TW]

A Prairie Home Companion Reviews

  • A Joyful Film About Death
    by A.W Richmond (adelitarichheaven@outlook.com) on 10 June 2006

    166 out of 192 people found the following review useful:

    As usual Altman will divide his audience in a radical way. He, clearly, doesn't do it on purpose but it happens more often than not with the works of real artists where there is no room (or very little) for concessions. It is what it is, his vision, his whole. He mentioned that the film was about death and found that not everyone agreed not even some of his closest and more devoted collaborators. That's what he saw, that's what it is but it's bound to be contradicted by critics and audiences alike. Personally, I don't think I'll see a better film this year. The work of an idiosyncratic artist and masterful craftsman doesn't hit the main stream screens every day of the week. My only reservation is that the film is too short. I wanted to go on and on and on. To say that Meryl Streep is sublime seems kind of redundant but never mind, she is, sublime, surprising, funny, very funny, moving, very, very moving. Lily Tomlin and Meryl have the best moments in the film. They appear, look and sound as if they had been working together all their lives. Total chemistry. Lindsay Lohan is the biggest surprise. Good for her. That's the way to forge a way ahead. Work with the best. Woody Harrelson and John C Reilly are simply glorious. Kevin Kline does a Kevin Kline in the most enchanting way. It was also a delight to see Garrison Keillor himself playing himself, not just wonderfully but very convincingly as well. I recommend it with all my heart.

  • This is Altman in his element
    by samseescinema on 21 May 2006

    148 out of 198 people found the following review useful:

    A Prairie Home Companion

    rating: 3.5 out of 4

    In truth, I'm not one to worship Robert Altman. His films—barring the rarities—have been, for me, mostly inconsequential. They're wispy and lighthearted and mostly nonchalant. They work, but on a momentary basis; acting like a bubble that bursts the second the lights go up. Most of the same can be said about A Prairie Home Companion. Only, this time is simply works better.

    Garrison Keillor who penned the "A Prairie Home Companion" radio show also works the fingers behind the typewriter for its film adaptation. His script has a kind of "concentrated structure" to it; it's duration running throughout "A Prairie Home Companion's" final live broadcasted show. He balances onstage performance between backstage interactions, the camera smoothly swirling amongst the audience, the stage, and the inner workings of the theatre.

    If Altman flashed the negative to achieve a washed-out look for The Long Goodbye, he did quite the opposite for A Prairie Home Companion. The cinematography is rich and sensational, often whirling between different sets in long, gorgeously extended shots. This isn't your typical backstage DV debacle; but the work of a director at the very height of his career.

    The cast is yet another stunning ensemble, most of them probably flocking to Altman's direction. Beat this: Meryl Streep, Woody Harrelson, Kevin Kline, Lily Tomlin, Virginia Madsen, Tommy Lee Jones, Lindsay Lohan, John C.Reilly, and Garrison Keillor. Yeah. The beauty of the film is that none of these actors quite seem to be acting. Attribute this to Altman's classic overlapping dialogue, but don't forget to bow your heads to the performers as well. Often I'm annoyed by Altman's stubborn persistence with overlapping dialogue. I'll argue that when Altman should be trying to make cinema, he insists on imitating real life. But with A Prairie Home Companion, the overlapping dialogue is mandatory. Altman's best when he's making a film mostly about people and not about story. This is most obvious here. My one complaint with the film is its aversion to storyline. But this isn't too much of a problem because A Prairie Home Companion is, if nothing else, about the people of the radio show. This is a story about human beings, where overlapping dialogue is only expected.

    The story finds itself toeing the line with magical realism. Virginia Madsen plays The Dangerous Woman, who Guy Noir (Kevin Kline) first describes as a femme fatale, and later as an angel. As she convinces us of her divinity, Noir finds a way to use her as an assassin to ward off the buyers of the radio show. This fantasy element works only to heighten the vibrancy of the rest of the film, where feet stay firmly planted to reality. Meryl Streep and Lily Tomlin play the singing sisters Yolanda and Rhonda Johnson, with Lindsay Lohan as their gloomy daughter Lola. The three, as contrasting as the actors are on paper, flit about in a realm of familial nostalgia, with Lola penciling out her suicidal songs and scoffing beside their make-up mirrors. John C. Reilly and Woody Harrelson are Dusty and Lefty, the singing cowboys who crack dirty jokes backstage and jerk the chain of censorship with Al (Tim Russell), the stage manager. Chuck Akers (L.Q. Jones) and Evelyn (Marylouise Burke) are the elderly lovebirds who chase a potentially fatal lovemaking. And holding all these characters together is Garrison Keillor, whose nostalgia is matched only by his pragmatism and lack of sentimentality towards the show's demise. His performance is probably the most memorable, as the picture is fuller when he strolls about within it, offering truth to the blind antics of some of the other roles with his endless cache of stories.

    A Prairie Home Companion's bubble doesn't burst as the lights go up. Instead, we find ourselves wishing the show would go on and the performers keep up doing their crazy little acts. This is Altman in his element; where humans are meant to be portrayed as humans. It's still lighthearted and mostly nonchalant, sure, but it's also about nostalgia and reminiscence, and the beauty that surrounds a family built behind the red curtains and a WLT microphone.

  • A song of love . . . .
    by jdesando on 5 June 2006

    111 out of 141 people found the following review useful:

    "It's not true that I had nothing on. I had the radio on." Marilyn Monroe about posing nude on her famous calendar.

    If there is anyone more laid back or brighter than Garrison Keillor in show business, let me know, because Robert Altman's A Prairie Home Companion, based on Keillor's long-running Minnesota Public Radio saga, shows Keillor as an audience sees him each week—like a god gently guiding an eccentric ensemble through excellent performances made to look as easy as his demeanor. This film stands near Altman's Nashville as a testimony to the director's gift for sustaining strong characters in layers of dialogue approximating overlapping conversations at an interesting party.

    Meryl Streep and Lily Tomlin as the singing country Johnson sisters bring back memories of Reese Witherspoon's amazing turn as June Carter and Streep's own previous country singer in Postcards. Ditto Woody Harrelson and John C. Reilly as the singing and joking Dusty and Lefty. But best of all is Kevin Kline as Keillor's real radio creation, Guy Noir, the '40's dapper, inquisitive, naughty narrator and security head for the production. Klein embodies the melancholic mood always at least hidden underneath any show's last show, despite Keillor's nonchalant assertion that every show is your "last show." Around this realistic, charming premise of talented performers at their last performance, writer Keillor interjects a ghostly beauty in a white leather trench coat, Virginia Madsen playing Dangerous Woman, the spirit of death, gently accompanying those about to die and the moribund show itself. The character is a lyrical embodiment of the theme that nothing lasts but the love shared in any experience. Keillor remains in character after someone dies by stating he doesn't "do eulogies." Nor does he do one for the show, which in real life still lasts in St. Paul from 1974.

    So enjoyable are Altman, his ubiquitous HD camera, and his busy dialogue that you feel a part of the proceedings, catching the sweet smell of success for everyone attached to this thoroughly realized song of love to theater, music, and creativity.

  • Funny, feel-good movie that will be a hit with radio-show fans.
    by exp0112 on 18 March 2006

    113 out of 158 people found the following review useful:

    The movie opens with a view of rural Minnesota, accompanied by 1950's radio...music, farm report, commodity prices, etc. It quickly moves to Mickey's Diner, an establishment located just a few blocks from the Fitzgerald Theater in downtown St. Paul, Minnesota. There we see Guy Noir, whose job is managing security for the "A Prairie Home Companion" radio program. Soon we are in the theater, preparing for the live performance of the radio program. Virtually all the remainder of the movie happens in the Fitzgerald.

    Note: I have attended two APHC performances in the Fitzgerald, and have eaten in Mickey's Diner. The exteriors in the movie are all real, and the stage, the sets and auditorium shots of the Fitzgerald are likewise genuine. Even a brief shot of a church near the theater, toward the end of the movie, is genuine. You can see some photos at PHCFan.com. The stage action in the movie is just like it happens in real life. Whether the dressing-room scenes and GK's disregard for deadlines are similar to real-life, I don't know.

    During much of the movie we are puzzled by a mysterious woman in white who has certainly caught Guy Noir's eye...her garments are so tight he can "read the embroidery on her panties." She walks calmly around the stage and through the set during the show itself. We learn her identity in the second half of the movie.

    The real-life Sue Scott plays a hairdresser in the movie, a speaking role. Even if you don't recognize her face you will recognize her voice. All the other regulars seem to play themselves.

    The movie audience really enjoyed the movie. We laughed heartily at the jokes, and applauded at the end. It is a feel-good movie, a must-see for fans of the weekly radio program.

  • Lake Wobigon Daze
    by britishdominion on 9 June 2006

    58 out of 72 people found the following review useful:

    A gentle piffle, "A Prairie Home Companion" is the Summer's most lovely find - a movie that is easy on the ears and seemingly made of sheary, impossible gossamer that would spindle or crush under a more heavy-handed production.

    The impressive cast seems to be having a whole lot of fun - Meryl Streep, Kevin Kline, Lily Tomlin, Woody Harrelson, Lindsay Lohan, LQ Jones et al all have perfunctory if labored singing voices, but it is scripter Garrison Keillor that is the thread that stitches this one together so well. The result is an infectious, genial collection of characters and occasions whose easy charms stay with the viewer days after the film finally unspools its last credit.

    Although I have never heard a PHC performance before, the film plays as a tribute to the old days of radio shows and more over, a loving though chilly valentine to the radio days of old. Anyone old enough though not near an NPR station might not know the show but most certainly can hum the tune.

    Keillor, he with an alien-like E.T. observation of the goings-on at the final performance of his 30+ year-old live radio show, has a wonderful announcer voice and an above average singing voice that anchors the honest, down home corn-pone credibility of the film. He is a cypher through the picture - a guy you could listen to for hours chat about his exploits, introduce faux commercials and sing a song about nothing in particular. GK has such an ethereal presence that you look at him with such amazement because a "regular" joe like he earns such a shorthand with his audience and can stand toe to toe with aplomb next to Oscar winners like Kline and Streep. It's a great, understated performance.

    The movie, directed by the legendary Robert Altman, has such a light touch that it's hard to not fall easily into it's flow. It's dreamy, slight and surreal, yet sets up its universe that is vaguely of today - but what world still has an actual radio show broadcast across the nation so detailed and entertaining as this? Altman and Keillor do the amazing - they deny the audience of any cheap emotion and pathos or short cuts to pay off the scenario. As much as this movie is about the wistful honor and simple entertainment of such a radio programs that used to rule the airwaves in the 1930s through the 1950s, both writer and director refuse to pander to suspected emotional payoffs or happy endings that lesser film creators might. This is a cold, simple and honest movie about the last kick at the can of a venerable institution, and as they choreograph it: so what? Every show, as Keillor says in the film, is the last show. Big deal.

    Despite it's frigid demeanor, "A Prairie Home Companion" is filled with warm, quiet moments that offers each cast member has a shining, sterling moment of performance - though none takes centre stage and overpowers or overacts. If anyone goes swinging for the balconies, its Altman regular Tomlin, who creates such a wonderful counterbalance to Streep's simple, honest Minnesotan singing sister partner that she stands as the picture's meta heart - a desperate, hardened yet proud woman backed into a career corner who doesn't know what to do after her regular job is prematurely retired by big radio business. Tomlin deserves an Oscar.

    For a film that is steeped in a sentimentality that no longer exists, Altman keeps his sharpened artist eye wandering the set for the most interesting player in the room instead of mourning the sad gone before. There's no release in the movie, no eulogy for the past. "A Prairie Home Companion" is a straight-forward document of what was, not what could have been or what will be.

    The director's brilliance is that his lens cares about what technical and bits of business that come to affect in the making of the final show which really tell the story - of a group of people who spend their Saturday nights singing songs, telling stories and transmitting their folksy well-wishes to an imaginary audience listening in on their bedside table radio. In the movie, Altman and Keillor let their staged audience seated in the cavernous Fitzgerald Theater in Minneapolis or those sitting in shoebox movie theater in Anywhere, USA fill in the relevance.

    One of the best movies of the year.

  • Surprise, Surprise
    by AMohajer1 on 19 April 2006

    65 out of 101 people found the following review useful:

    Who knew that Lindsay Lohan could deliver a performance of this caliber? My friends and I, all movie aficionados, were stunned by her performance, albeit a supporting role. I never EVER thought I would utter those words. As mentioned earlier, Lohan's real acting debut is here.

    Still, her's is highlighted by a magnificent ensemble, particularly Tomlin and Streep, who give dazzling performances. After all these years, they've still got it- and Tomlin, an Altman favorite, is particularly up to par with the snap-and-go dialogue.

    As always, his direction must be taken with a grain of salt- you either love him or hate him, but the performances are what make this film soar.

    Kudos!

  • Mama's little baby loves rhubarb, rhubarb
    by canticlenumber9 on 16 April 2006

    65 out of 102 people found the following review useful:

    Robert Altman's "A Prairie Home Companion" is light, fluffy and fun, much like the radio show. As long as audiences keep this in mind, they'll be sold like Rhubarb pie and duct tape advertised during the broadcast.

    The outstandingly cast ensemble and Altman's signature directing style stitch a flowing patchwork of laughs and tinges of nostalgia. Streep and Tomlin are dynamic together (and sing beautifully!), and Kline carries much of the film's comedy on his capable shoulders. The film represents a bygone era that the people of the show are still living in. Only Virginia Madsen, Lindsay Lohan and Tommy Lee Jones represent the outsiders to the otherwise coherent culture of the show, and as the film progresses, affect it and are affected by it in different ways.

    I generally prefer films, however comic or fun they are, to have some deeper themes. But unlike the multi-layered theater that most of the film takes place in, there's nothing really behind the scenes here- it's art for arts sake. However, I still enjoyed the film and am actually relieved it didn't bog down in anything too serious.

    Whether audiences are fans of the radio show or not, the film's worth its weight in Narco Bran Flakes.

  • An acquired taste, but I think I acquired it before I was born
    by D. Bruce Brown on 9 November 2006

    27 out of 31 people found the following review useful:

    Altman has created the anti-Hollywood, which I'm sure was not by accident. A true gem.

    It's a shame that this was not a more commercially successful vehicle. The ensemble cast is superb, without exception. Garrison Keillor has a face made for radio, but I understand why he has to play himself. Nice baritone, but those are weapons-grade eyebrows.

    Altman pokes fun at standard 21st century American movie fare, but mid-20th century radio gets lampooned pretty well too. The eponymous radio show, the state of Minnesota, and mindless belief all takes it in the slats. Even irony itself is not safe from Altman's watchful eye. It's deliciously subtle and, by starts, wonderfully bawdy. Paying attention pays dividends. Doing subtle right takes a lot of work.

    One of the sweet surprises is that people you knew could act can also sing: Merryl Streep, Lily Tomlin, Woody Harrelson (not a typo), Lindsey Lohan, and John C. Reilly croon. Where else could they strut such stuff? Underplaying their roles, never stealing a scene, letting the well-written script be the star. Kevin Kline was never better, not even in "Wanda". Al Gore's old roommate is heartlessly evil.

    I'm glad I watched it alone because I felt free to laugh out loud. That would have been out of character with the movie.

    It's unlikely you would only like this movie. You'll love it or run the other way. I didn't want it to end.

    Don't look for a sequel.

  • Great musical comedy!
    by starlettels on 21 March 2006

    47 out of 74 people found the following review useful:

    I just saw this movie last weekend at the SXSW film festival. I thought it was a wonderfully funny film. I might be a little partial since she is one of my favorites, but Meryl Streep was superb! The rest of the cast-Lohan, Tomlin, Kline, Reilly, Madsen, Harrelson-were all great as well. The movie actually felt like a documentary almost because the dialogue and activity was so real. Kline's character is hilariously out of place and the dialogue between the other actors is a riot. The jokes were great and the whole movie was really funny. The whole theater clapped at the end of the film. This is definitely another Altman great, I just wish he had won a real Oscar and not the honorary one!

  • Feb. 13th Berlinale showing of Altman's PHC a success
    by frugillaria on 14 February 2006

    58 out of 106 people found the following review useful:

    I saw "PHC" yesterday at the Berlinale: simultaneously laughing at the jokes and Guy's wonderful snarkiness, while - as a St. Paulite - blubbering, overcome with sentimental homesickness and memories of attending PHC broadcasts since the 70s. Thank you, GK, for bringing so much enjoyment to so many people for so many years.

    I was dismayed to see that the film pressed the "Christian"-button so often. Is this a real representation of the PHC radio audience and/or the PHC staff? It disturbed me; seemed forced and fake. Are most PHC fans in this target audience? I think not.

    The music was a hoot, of course, including all of its ragged edges and the Norwegian fish jingle. However it seemed too 'southern' to me. Where was the (non-southern) folk music that was such a main component of the show over the decades?

    Kevin Kline, as always: a marvel and a delight. So fine to hear his melted-butter voice over the opening scene of Mickey's...."in a city that knows how to keep its secrets..."!

    The livestock price reports in the opening 'roving across your radio dial' sequence were a cute, true, detail. The big stars attempting local (or Oshkosh, Wisconsin) accents were not at all convincing, at least to this native. That bugged me. The radio evangelist with a southern accent in the opening radio bits also seemed quite out of place.

    I wonder how much of the movie is understandable to people who know nothing about the PHC show. The Berlinale audience seemed to 'get' the humor and enjoyed the film.

    All in all: a delight.

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