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Overall Rating
3.49

Awesome30.26%
Worth A Look: 19.74%
Average: 28.95%
Pretty Bad: 10.53%
Total Crap: 10.53%

8 reviews, 28 user ratings


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Prairie Home Companion, A
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by Smiles

"A fun ride that rado show fans will especially enjoy."
3 stars

When Garrison Keillor’s singing comes thru the radio from A Prairie Home Companion waves of nostalgia wash over you. The same is true for the movie version of his acclaimed radio broadcast directed by Robert Altman. In the end it isn’t relevant where truth separates from fiction – the ride is all that matters.

When Garrison Keillor’s singing comes thru the radio from A Prairie Home Companion waves of nostalgia wash over you. The same is true for the movie version of his acclaimed radio broadcast directed by Robert Altman. In the end it isn’t relevant where truth separates from fiction – the ride is all that matters.

A Prairie Home Companion gives a birds eye view into the last performance of a variety radio show – the kind of show that, as Axeman (Tommy Lee Jones) puts it, “died 50 years ago only somebody forgot to tell these people”. Axeman’s big time corporation has bought the famous Fitzgerald theatre which houses the broadcast with plans to turn it into a parking lot.

It is hard to know where the real life radio variety show helmed by Keillor stops and the fictional account of the movie begins. But that is part of the fun. It is as if Keillor (who wrote the script) and Altman have taken the structure of the radio show where musical numbers and sketches are intermixed and have applied it to the film. Musical interludes are shown “on stage” while “sketches” are replaced with the backstage antics of the cast. This works in a nice back and forth rhythm.

Keeping this rhythm in time is the amazing cast drawn in unique character roles. For those who are familiar with the radio show your favorite jingles and characters have come to life. Meryl Streep and Lilly Tolmin have a ball with their homey stories as singing sisters Yolanda and Rhonda Johnson. When one stops talking the other starts without missing a beat. Lindsay Lohan manages to hold her own as Streep’s suicide obsessed poem-writing daughter.

And to further blur truth and fiction are characters from the radio show who have come alive. Kevin Kline has brought to life bumbling private eye Guy Noir with such certainty it is hard to believe that he began as a fictional radio show character. Not a movement is wasted. Woody Harrelson and John C. Reilly have a ball with Dusty and Lefty the singing cowboys. You can practically see the grit on them and their song “Bad Jokes” filled with double entendres is not to be missed. And in the middle of it all is Keillor, playing a version of himself as grand master with impenetrable deadpanned delivery.

However the delicate balance of real and not so real it set off kilter by the wandering Dangerous Woman (Virginia Madsen). She is a beautiful otherworldly presence that has come to the show for celestial reasons. Some people can see her and other can’t. Ultimately the Dangerous Woman proves distracting and lives up to her name by being dangerous to the movie and causing the audience to loose focus one too many times. The Axeman’s arrival does the same thing. While his decision to turn the studio into a parking lot has lead to this last performance the time he spends in the film seems forced.

But whatever damage the Dangerous Woman or Axeman does you can take comfort in auditory experience of the film. Altman’s style of overlapping dialogue is especially suited to this forum. Altman provides a voyeuristic peep back stage that catches all the best bits. And the music pervades the film is the same as that on the radio show, folksy with hilarious and heartfelt lyrics.

In the end it depends on what kind of experience you crave. A focused straightforward piece that keeps you on the edge of your seat this is not. But if you are looking for something to keep you company on a nice quite Saturday evening this movie, or the radio show on which it is based, will do just fine.

If you are looking for something to keep you company on a nice quite Saturday evening this movie, or the radio show on which it is based, will do just fine.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=13721&reviewer=383
originally posted: 10/23/06 01:34:53
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 South By Southwest Film Festival For more in the 2006 South By Southwest Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 U.S. Comedy Arts Festival For more in the 2006 U.S. Comedy Arts Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 San Francisco Film Festival For more in the 2006 San Francisco Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 Seattle Film Festival For more in the 2006 Seattle Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

3/27/16 FireWithFire Altman's swan song. As badly made as every Altman film before it 1 stars
8/23/14 PAUL SHORTT GOOD-NATURED AND WELL MADE 4 stars
6/10/08 CzarChasm Not at ALL what I expected -- FFd thru the DVD for the most part. 2 stars
3/03/08 ladavies this should have been so much better 3 stars
10/10/07 mr.mike surprisingly entertaining 4 stars
8/05/07 ravenmad i fell aslepp twice, no three times. didn't care to catch the tail end. Sorry. 1 stars
5/03/07 David Pollastrini Lindsay Lohan looked hot in this! 3 stars
3/11/07 Ryan_A Actually quite charming, if minda meandering. Cast is marvelous (even La Lohan) 4 stars
12/20/06 Monday Morning Like every other Altman film, virtually unwatchable. 2 stars
12/05/06 Travis A really nice, fun movie 4 stars
12/03/06 colichops one person's "gossamer construction" is another person's "so what?". 1 stars
11/30/06 bubba This movie sucks, Altman totally screwed up a good idea. Why did they use actors? 1 stars
11/10/06 nora If you know and love the radio show- it's great fun- if not- don't bother- it will make no 4 stars
11/02/06 KAREN MATLOCK People who don't listen to the radio show won't like it. I loved it! 5 stars
10/27/06 Tiffany Losco I actually liked this one. 4 stars
10/25/06 Vikki boring, disapointing and pointless! 1 stars
10/23/06 Judy I loved the songs and jokes, but didn't care much for the story. 3 stars
10/15/06 William Goss Like a grin, with comedic high points connected by large troughs of boredom. 3 stars
10/05/06 Helen Bradley Boring boring boring 1 stars
8/17/06 Pn. Too spooky if Altman were to die and this was his last film... 5 stars
7/27/06 Anna Orith Very sweet and occasionally aching funny 4 stars
6/25/06 anne papke made me feel so comfortable, like I was right in the radio audience 5 stars
6/18/06 John Dooley A lovely, touching, beautiful movie. Great cast, everyone, including Marylouise Burke. 5 stars
6/17/06 Christina Did a middle schooler write this? What a disappointment. 1 stars
6/15/06 Billy go outside 1 stars
6/12/06 Dani Such a warm, spirited movie. Bravo! 5 stars
6/12/06 t stewart Very funny moments, ad hoc music video style 4 stars
6/11/06 San Lamar i liked it, great performances by great actors 4 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  09-Jun-2006 (PG-13)
  DVD: 10-Oct-2006

UK
  N/A

Australia
  05-Oct-2006




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