A PRAIRIE HOME COMPANION
STARRING Woody Harrelson, Tommy Lee Jones, Kevin Kline, Lindsay Lohan, Meryl Streep and Virginia Madsen
DIRECTED BY Robert Altman
Opens Friday, June 2
With some 40 feature films to his credit and a career that spans the better part of a century, filmmaker and cinematic demigod Robert Altman, in this his 81st year, graces us with yet another one.
One last show?
So goes the theme of A Prairie Home Companion, Altmans latest (and possibly last) film his homage to real Americana, his reflection on music, art and our innate desires to "be" and "do" right to the bitter end, his swan song.Written by and starring Garrison Keillor (host of the long running National Public Radio show of the same name as the film), A Prairie Home Companion follows the last performance of a marginally fictionalized radio show, encompassing all of the drama on and off the stage that unfolds through the duration of the show. In true Altman fashion the film boasts an ensemble cast spouting half-improvised dialogue and is big on character development and light on plot. That the nights show is the culmination of 30 years is the springboard for all character arcs, and what little story does exist is intricately threaded through the characters apprehensions in the form of a mysterious and sexy archangel (Virginia Madsen), who quietly pursues her mission of redemption.
There are also some great musical numbers, both humorous and moving, dispersed throughout, including songs performed by Meryl Streep and Lily Tomlin as two nostalgic, middle-aged sisters, and Woody Harrelson and John C. Reilly as the foul-mouthed, bantering cowboys.
Where the film falters is in its unaffected humour, much of which falls squarely on the shoulder of Kevin Kline, who, as Guy Noir, plays an overbearing private investigator struggling to convince himself that he is the incarnation of every classic noir protagonist ever to grace the screen. Though, to Altmans credit, he is firmly conscious of this fact and even addresses it with the line, "its funny because people laugh."
Yes, the songs are great, the performances are lively, the camerawork is lyrical and the photography is rich and deeply textured, but, unfortunately, the sum is not greater than its parts. When the credits finally roll on what could very well be Altmans final film, youre left thinking that, though nicely garnished, there wasnt any real meat to sink your teeth into.
So, for those of you expecting to experience the swan song of a great auteur, this film will probably have you leaving the theatre chanting, "One last show!"