Exclaim!

A Prairie Home Companion

Robert Altman

A Prairie Home Companion
At 81 years old, Robert Altman’s ability to crank out a film nearly every other year is remarkable in itself. What’s more is that they are often fantastic, even though Altman has been making essentially the same type of film since 1970’s M*A*S*H*. That film consists of a massive cast, a focus on character development over plot and usually, a mutual profession or creative interest. Sometimes this can result in a huge mess (see Ready To Wear or Dr. T and the Women) or a unique Altman experience (see The Player or Gosford Park). His latest, A Prairie Home Companion, gracefully falls into the latter category. The film is based on a radio program broadcast of the same name. It is a fictional representation of what happened behind the scenes when the long-running show was cancelled. The show’s real-life creator, Garrison Keillor, plays a fictional incarnation of himself (and also wrote the screenplay). I’ll admit it could have been a pretentious snore but a slew of fantastic actors lift it up playing Keillor’s Companion companions. Most notably, Meryl Streep and Lily Tomlin as sisters Yolanda and Rhonda, the only survivors of a once popular country music act, and Kevin Kline as a suspicious security guard. The lines are sharp, the songs are charming (and charmingly sung, particularly Streep and Tomlin’s duet) and Altman even manages to get a radiant performance out of Lindsay Lohan. What more can one ask? The DVD has a nice batch of extras to complement the experience: Altman and Kline give an above average commentary; "Come Play With Us: A Feature Companion” features a variety of featurettes that vary between interesting and, well, quite dull; and "Onstage at the the Fitzgerald: A Music Companion” extends the musical performances and allows the viewer to watch them separately.
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