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A Prairie Home Companion /

Rated: PG-13

Starring: Garrison Keillor, Meryl Streep, Lily Tomlin, Lindsay Lohan, Woody Harrelson, John C. Reilly

Directed by: Robert Altman

Produced by: William Pohlad, John Penotti, Fisher Stevens

Written by: Garrison Keillor

Distributor: Pircturehouse


Garrison Keillor , Meryl Streep and Lindsay Lohan in Picturehouse's A Prairie Home Companion
Woody Harrelson and John C. Reilly in Picturehouse's A Prairie Home Companion
Tommy Lee Jones and Virginia Madsen in Picturehouse's A Prairie Home Companion

     A Prairie Home Companion stars a lot of big-name actors, but is the opposite of what is commonly thought of as a “big movie”. A hypothetical telling of the last live airing of Garrison Keillor’s famous public radio show—Keillor wrote and stars in the film himself—the movie plays to the comforting tune of the folk-music and small-town charm embraced by its source material. However, despite its lack of the explosions and special-effects typical of summer-releases, the film is more assured and more engrossing than most others that I have seen this year. Directed by Robert Altman, A Prairie Home Companion has been seamlessly constructed; its interchange between mock live-performances, allegorical symbolism, and casual dialogue functions like a surreal sort of old-fashioned lullaby. I’ve never been a regular listener of Keillor’s radio program, but that never stopped me from feeling, as I watched the characters, like I was sitting in the company of a rich variety of old friends.

     The main players in the film are Keillor himself, the Johnson Sisters (Meryl Streep and Lily Tomlin), Lola Johnson (Lindsay Lohan), cowboys Dusty and Lefty (Woody Harrelson and John C. Reilly), and out-of-work-private-eye security-guard Guy Noir (Kevin Kline). Virginia Madsen also makes an appearance as a woman who might be an angel, depending on one’s interpretation of the role. Director Altman allows his camera to flow both on and off stage as the live radio program is conducted at its Minnesota Home, the Fitzgerald Theatre. One could even make the claim that A Prairie Home Companion follows the standard structure of a musical, as it alternates between performances and conversation. However, I would argue that its approach should be recognized as being far less conventional due to the way that Altman crafts several different stories for the audience, simply by allowing the members of the ensemble to speak of their characters’ lives as he floats his focus toward and away from them. In developing such an incidental style true to his typical form, Altman has crafted a most meaningful anti-narrative, commenting principally on the individual’s definition of time and the way in which it affects them. A Prairie Home Companion functions as a fascinating, involving, and flat-out joyous mix of vignettes revolving around a singular event. I loved nearly every inch of it.

-Danny, Bucket Reviews (6.22.2006)

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