Directed by: Robert Altman
Starring: Garrison Keillor, Kevin Kline, Virginia Madsen, Meryl Streep, Lily Tomlin, Lindsay Lohan
Though it’s been sitting on my shelves ever since it came out on DVD, I don’t think I’ve actually watched Robert Altman’s A Prairie Home Companion since it came out in 2006. That’s nothing against the film. It’s just something that happens — a lot more than it should. This is a fine film that not only serves as a pleasant fantasy version of what it’s like to work on the radio show of the title (in this case the show’s “final broadcast”), but serves as perhaps the best swan song any filmmaker ever had. It’s a film made by any 81-year-old director who is well aware of his rapidly approaching mortality (Altman would be dead a scant five months after the film came out) — and the film serves as a farewell. Indeed, the movie deals with the subject of death for a good deal of its running time. There’s an actual death in the film (with the observation that “there’s nothing tragic about the death of an old man”) and even an angel of death as a character. But it’s by no means gloomy and is as much about life as death. Plus, it’s very much an Altman picture with everything that means — multiple characters, multiple dramas, cross-talk, a genially meandering structure, etc. In its own way, it’s a perfect Altman film. And it now has an additional resonance by showcasing Lindsay Lohan at the point where it appeared she was on the threshold of a significant acting career.
Here’s my original review of the film: A Prairie Home Companion
The Hendersonville Film Society will show A Prairie Home Companion Sunday, July 28, at 2 p.m. in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing Retirement Community (behind Epic Cinemas), 333 Thompson St., Hendersonville.
In Brief: Robert Altman’s final film is one of those rare occurrences in which a great filmmaker goes out on a high note. More, A Prairie Home Companion virtually serves as his own eulogy since the film is often a gently comedic exploration of death and its meaning. That it comes from a filmmaker fully aware of his own mortality (Paul Thomas Anderson was on call to step in and take over if Altman didn’t complete the film) makes it all the more resonant. But don’t get the idea that there’s anything gloomy or maudlin here. This is first and foremost a comedy about the radio show that spawned the film.