Prairie Home Companion, A

January 10th, 2007 DVD Reviews, Film, Xpress

Who knew this would be Robert Altman’s swan song? The 81-year-old director left the stage last year after one of the most auspicious careers in cinema. Like Woody Allen, Altman made films that were so distinctively his own you could see them a mile away.

Want a cast that would sink a battleship? While not quite hitting the ambitious heights of the unwieldy Gosford Park (with at least 15 big names present), Companion obliges. A sardonic, documentary style? Present and correct. A love letter-to-a-dying-institution aspect? Check.

Live radio is an anachronism in today’s world of media behemoths, and Tommy Lee Jones as the CEO of the media conglomerate who arrives near the end of the film to shut the show down represents modernity crashing in. The folks at WLT Radio are nonplussed, performing their radio variety show A Prairie Home Companion on stage like they do every week.

Real life compere Garrison Keillor (playing himself) leads a ragtag band of performers belting their numbers out with gusto, accompanied by a live sound effects guys and interspersed with messages from hokey, country-style sponsors.

Altman collects an impressive and eclectic cast as the gang come together for what they know will be their last show. There’ll be tears, love, loss, laughs and even a visit by an angel.

With a narration by a Mickey Spillane-style private detective (Kevin Kline) who works as the theatre security and several other add-ons elbowed in, A Prairie Home Companion feels bursting at the seams, but it’s classic Altman. One can only hope he’s finally doing that great DVD commentary in the sky, because the extras (unpreviewed) comprise only a making of and a few interviews.


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