A look at what goes on backstage during the last broadcast of America’s most celebrated radio show, where singing cowboys Dusty and Lefty, a country music siren (Streep), and a host of others hold court.
Woody Harrelson, Tommy Lee Jones, Garrison Keillor, Kevin Kline, Lindsay Lohan, Virginia Madsen, John C. Reilly, Maya Rudolph, Meryl Streep, Lily Tomlin, Marylouise Burke, L.Q. Jones, Sue Scott, Tim Russell, Tom Keith
I went to see this movie yesterday by myself, as I knew it was not a movie Lay would enjoy. Although I think he secretly enjoys the radio show, as I often have it on when we are heading Saturday evenings.
If there is anyone more laid back or brighter than Garrison Keillor in show business, let me know, because Robert Altman’s A Prairie Home Companion, based on Keillor’s long-running Minnesota Public Radio saga, shows Keillor as an audience sees him each week?like a god gently guiding an eccentric ensemble through excellent performances made to look as easy as his demeanor. This film stands as a testimony to the director’s gift for sustaining strong characters in layers of dialogue approximating overlapping conversations at an interesting party.
Meryl Streep and Lily Tomlin as the singing country Johnson sisters bring back memories of Reese Witherspoon’s amazing turn as June Carter and Streep’s own previous country singer in Postcards. Ditto Woody Harrelson and John C. Reilly as the singing and joking Dusty and Lefty. But best of all is Kevin Kline as Keillor’s real radio creation, Guy Noir, the ’40’s dapper, inquisitive, naughty narrator and security head for the production. Klein embodies the melancholic mood always at least hidden underneath any show’s last show, despite Keillor’s nonchalant assertion that every show is your “last show.” Around this realistic, charming premise of talented performers at their last performance, writer Keillor interjects a ghostly beauty in a white leather trench coat, Virginia Madsen playing Dangerous Woman, the spirit of death, gently accompanying those about to die and the moribund show itself. The character is a lyrical embodiment of the theme that nothing lasts but the love shared in any experience. Keillor remains in character after someone dies by stating he doesn’t “do eulogies.” Nor does he do one for the show, which in real life still lasts in St. Paul from 1974.
So enjoyable are Altman, his ubiquitous HD camera, and his busy dialogue that you feel a part of the proceedings, catching the sweet smell of success for everyone attached to this thoroughly realized song of love to theater, music, and creativity.