As it was with John Wayne and The Shootists, we’ll look back on Prairie Home Companion as a portent of Robert Altman’s death.
The Garrison Keiller scripted (and starring) film charts the last night of a live broadcast radio Western-type Vaudeville show performed in front of a theatre audience.
Somewhat of an anachronism, it was to be closed down by the radio station’s new owners in their pursuit of a talk agenda. But it’s the nuances that make the show, and make Altman’s films.
With an ensemble cast the size of which can’t match Gosford Park, this is still a story of relationships refined over years and coloured by their surroundings. It’s almost low-key for Altman, who will be most remembered for more frenetic films like Nashville, MASH The Player and Short Cuts.
So, is this a last hurrah? Paul Thomas Anderson was on hand to finish filming if Altman was unable to complete the shoot. And there’s a spiritual, nostalgic air but that could be Altman’s own joke – the story is based around Keeler’s own radio show of the same name, which seems to be going nicely thank you very much and trades in the same home-spun apple-pie idiosyncratic nostalgia.
Meryl Streep is wonderful – watch it back-to-back with The Devil Wears Prada and you’ll see – Lily Tomlin is strong as her sister and Garrison Keeler, well, he’s just the same as he was when he first appeared on Wogan back in the ’80s. (Let’s not mention Lindsey Lohan, who is like a gash across the other performances.)
It also stars Kevin Kline, John C. Reilly, Maya Rudolph, Woody Harrelson, Virginia Madsen, and Tommy Lee Jones.
There are no great revelations and the end seems a bit tacked on (in fact, you don’t need to watch from where Lohan gets up to sing), but there are some lovely low-key moments and lovely interplay, which, more than the interlacing dialogue, will be what he’s remembered for.
He died aged 80 on November 20, 2006 and made more than 60 films.
“Retirement?” he was reported to have said. “You’re talking about
A Prairie Home Companion is released on January 5.
Posted by Cptn