A Prairie Home Companion

Just saw A Prairie Home Companion, the late Robert Altman’s star-studded movie about Garrison Keillor’s wonderful radio show of the same name. And star-studded it truly is, with a cast that includes Meryl Streep, Lily Tomlin, Kevin Kline, Virginia Madsen, Lindsay Lohan, Woody Harrelson, and my classmate Tommy Lee Jones. And all of the regular crew is there as well; those who listen to PHC will recognize the names of Sue Scott, Tim Russell, Tom Keith, Rich Dworsky, Robin and Linda Williams, and of course Garrison Keillor himself. But what we recognize, of course, is their voices, since on radio we can only imagine them. Keillor says that he has a face made for radio, and maybe some listeners think that it would be better if it stayed there — but they would be wrong.

Roger Ebert, as he does so often, says it best:

What a lovely film this is, so gentle and whimsical, so simple and profound. Robert Altman’s A Prairie Home Companion is faithful to the spirit of the radio program, a spirit both robust and fragile, and yet achieves something more than simply reproducing a performance of the show. It is nothing less than an elegy, a memorial to memories of times gone by, to dreams that died but left the dreamers dreaming, to appreciating what you’ve had instead of insisting on more.

What’s odd is that the reviewers, including Ebert, didn’t perceive the theme of the movie to be death, but to my mind that’s clearly what the theme was. I have just learned that Robert Altman himself said that this movie was about death — shortly before his own death, hmm… — so now I’m all the more convinced.

Categories: Movies & (occasionally) TV