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Being a huge fan of the movie whose name I stole for this post’s title and his more recent Gosford Park, I was ecstatic to see that Robert Altman had gone back to his layered dialogue and fly on the wall storytelling style with the new A Prairie Home Companion, (I haven’t seen The Company but it just didn’t strike me as the Altman I love). The film is a nice, poignant tale about the final show from Garrison Keillor’s ragtag band of misfits. What a crew they were: Keillor shines playing himself with an amazing comic timing and facial expressions that I wasn’t quite expecting being that he has done radio for so long, but his natural charisma and the help of being the script’s composer allowed a very rich and real performance; Woody Harrelson and John C. Reilly are a singing act with a great rapport, bouncing joke after joke off each other; Meryl Streep and Lily Tomlin are hilarious as musical sisters who—I couldn’t decide—have been taking hallucinogens for years or are just really high on life; Lindsay Lohan does a good job with her small role, I’m not sure it’s the serious adult breakthrough people are hailing it as though—she plays a young girl obsessed with death and yet cries “why?” to anyone who will listen when death is seen firsthand; and lastly the chameleon that is Kevin Kline as Guy Noir, our occasional narrator/private detective/security man whose clumsiness and convoluted, overdramatic speech lend a nice touch.

Altman does what Altman does best by giving continuous streams of conversation burned to celluloid. As Keillor himself says in the movie, silence and radio just don’t go together and that credo is seen here. He directs the menagerie of characters beautifully as only he can do, (with exception to Paul Thomas Anderson who served as “backup director” on this film for insurance purposes due to the age of Altman, hopefully securing some of these actors to support Daniel Day Lewis in his new film There Will Be Blood, as he is the proven successor to character driven dramedys). The actors keep the laughs coming and even when a joke seems to be done, or overdone, a character adds one more final quip to send the audience reeling in their seats again.

A Prairie Home Companion 8/10

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photography:
[1] Garrison Keillor, Lily Tomlin, Meryl Streep and Lindsay Lohan in A Prairie Home Companion Photo by Melinda Sue Gordon

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