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Mar 19, 2007

Fletch's Video Miniview: A Prairie Home Companion

Robert Altman was the perfect director for the cinematic adaptation of Garrison Keillor's A Prairie Home Companion. His meandering, busy style matches the tempo and mood needed to film a radio show in (mostly) real time. It doesn't hurt to have a great cast as well, including Meryl Strepp, Lily Tomlin, Tommy Lee Jones, Woody Harrelson, John C. Reilly and Lindsay Lohan. That's the good news.

The bad news is that the screenplay, by Keillor, is contrived and dumb, featuring not only an private eye wannabe played by Kevin Kline named Guy Noir (who is a crossover from the actual radio show, which may explain the stupidity of the character name, but doesn't excuse it), but an idiotic "angel of death" played by Virginia Madsen, who meanders in and out of scenes as if she always has something important to say, yet never says it.

The scenes featuring the stage performances from the show are a genuine delight, most notably the singing performances by Harrelson and Reilly as cowboys Dusty and Lefty, and Street and Tomlin as a pair of singing sisters with tales of "Momma" from way back when. Keillor himself is also charming as can be, with his silky smooth voice narrating the show throughout.

That said, what could have been a meaningful tribute to Keillor's radio show becomes instead a sad attempt to create a narrative where there is none to be had. Or, if there was one to be had, this wasn't it.

Fletch's Film Rating:


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