out of Five
Running time: 106
A fitting swansong for Altman's career, this is an enjoyable comedy drama with strong performances, lively musical numbers and a handful of decent jokes.
What's it all about?
Part backstage drama, part musical comedy, A Prairie Home Companion is a collaboration between writer Garrison Keillor and director Robert Altman, depicting the final night of a fictional version of Keillor's real-life radio show. Lily Tomlin and Meryl Streep play singing sisters Yolanda and Rhonda Johnson, whilst Lindsay Lohan plays Yolanda's daughter Lola, who's about to make her debut on the final show.
The superb ensemble cast also includes Kevin Kline as house detective and 1940s throwback Guy Noir; Tommy Lee Jones as the seemingly unmoved theatre owner who's shutting them down; Woody Harrelson and John C.
Reilly as a pair of singing cowboys; Virginia Madsen as a mysterious woman in white; and Keillor himself as the on-stage narrator.
The entire cast are excellent, but the stand-outs are Harrelson and John C. Reilly, who steal the entire show with their hilarious turns as Dusty and Rusty - their song is a particular highlight. Kline is equally amusing, particularly during his cliche-laden voiceovers.
Altman's customary use of overlapping, naturalistic dialogue works well here, especially during the backstage gossiping between Streep and Tomlin. Similarly, Lohan gives a mature, assured performance that bodes well for her post-teen-queen career.
The weirdly anachronistic setting (it's set in the present day but it could easily pass for the 1940s or 1950s) gives the film an elegiac quality that seems entirely appropriate. Similarly, the fact that this turned out to be Altman's last film somehow makes the fact that Madsen's character turns out to be an angel that much more poignant.
In short, this is an entirely appropriate send-off for Altman, with enjoyable performances and an entertaining mix of music and gentle humour that will leave you with a warm fluffy feeling inside.
A Prairie Home Companion (PG)