A Prairie Home Companion
Directed by: Robert Altman
Starring: Woody Harrelson, Tommy Lee Jones, Garrison Keillor, Kevin Kline, Lindsay Lohan, Virginia Madsen, John C Reilly, Maya Rudolph, Meryl Streep, Lily Tomlin
A Prairie Home Companion actually is a live radio variety show created and hosted by Garrison Keillor, which had a very popular run in the US in the eighties. The film, Robert Altman’s last (released in US six months before his death in November 20, 2006), is a fictional representation of behind-the-scenes activities of the show. Written by Garrison Keillor, the man behind the show, who also makes an appearance in the film as himself, A Prairie Home Companion is not Gosford Park, but you have Altman touch all over the film, an ensemble cast, situations moving from the absurd to the slapstick, everyone talking at the same time, a dash of magic realism (Virginia Madsen as the Dangerous Woman or an angel) and comedy of manners.
For us in India, who do not have any idea of the radio show, the film may strike a chord instantly, all the more so, since the film does not even try to tell a cohesive story.
But give yourself some time and you’ll begin to enjoy the company of the people appearing and disappearing from the scenes, with their idiosyncrasies and mannerisms. This is where the film scores, an impressive star cast, from Meryl Streep to Lindsay Lohan, for Tommy Lee Jones to Woody Harrelson to Kevin Kilne.
And the show-stealer is, you guessed right, Meryl Streep, as always. She is one of the actor in Hollywood who can do no wrong. She moulds herself to the role in such a way that you can’t imagine anyone else in her place. And her comic timings are just sublime (Death Becomes Her, and more recently The Davil Wears Prada). Here she plays Yolanda Jackson, one of the Jackson sisters from Wisconsin who were once a popular family country music act. Lily Tomlin plays the other sister Rhonda. Lindsey Lohan plays Yolanda’s daughter Lola, who writes poems about suicide. Watch out for the chemistry between veteran Streep and new heartthrob Lohan. It’s just awesome.
But there are other characters, a whole lot of them. Woody Harrelson and John C Reilly are the singing cowboys Dusty and Lefty, respectively. Tommy Lee Jones plays the Axeman, a businessman from Texas who has come to shut down the show. Kevin Kline is Keillor’s radio character Guy Noir, oh, chances are that lose count of people.
The film is a musical comedy and within the genre, it’s a fun ride. And as the swansong of Robert Altman’s illustrious career, the film deserves a special mention.
Rating **1/2 (Good, well almost)