Starring Garrison Keillor, Meryl Streep, Lily Tomlin, Kevin Kline, Woody Harrelson, John C. Reilly, Tommy Lee Jones, Lindsey Lohan
It’s a rainy Saturday night in St. Paul, Minnesota, and the crowd settles in to the Fitzgerald Theater for the final performance of the radio show, “A Prairie Home Companion.”
No, this isn’t the end of the real radio show, which has been broadcasting coast-to-coast since 1974 with an audience numbering in the millions. This is a fictitious “A Prairie Home Companion,” the film directed by Robert Altman and written by Garrison Keillor. It opens nationwide June 9th and stars Meryl Streep, Lily Tomlin, Kevin Kline, Woody Harrelson, John C. Reilly, Tommy Lee Jones, Lindsey Lohan, and yes, even Garrison Keillor.
The film opens as “A Prairie Home Companion” prepares to broadcast for the final time. The weekend radio show, which airs on the mom-and-pop station, WLT (which stands for “with lettuce and tomato”, a throwback to the days when the show broadcast from the diner across the street), has been sold to a Texas conglomerate. Plans are to turn the Fitzgerald Theater into a parking lot.
Down-on-his-luck detective Guy Noir (Kline), who in the real radio show is a character in one of PHC’s skits, joins the cast to handle backstage security, allowing a mysterious woman (Virginia Madsen) to wander around unchecked. Sister act Yolanda and Rhonda Johnson (Street and Tomlin) reminisce about their mother, love lost, and their career on the country-fair circuit, while Yolanda’s teenaged daughter (Lohan) sits nearby and writes suicidal poetry. Singing cowboys Dusty and Lefty (Harrelson and Reilly) entertain the audience with songs and stories from the trail while pregnant stagehand Molly (Maya Rudolph) keeps the scripts organized and the cast in place. Keillor himself is the emcee of the show, the steadfast, no nonsense, glue that holds it all together, even as Chuck Akers (L.Q.Jones) comes to his own kind of ending backstage.
The film captures the homespun charm and distinctive humor for which Keillor is famous and creates on screen the mental picture you might get when listening to the real radio show. In fact, the film was shot almost entirely at the Fitzgerald Theater in St. Paul, where “A Prairie Home Companion” really broadcasts from each week. The fiction meets reality again as members of the real radio show appear in the film, including sound effects wizard, Tom Keith; composer, keyboardist and band arranger Richard Dworsky; Tim Russell, who portrays the stage manager; Sue Scott, who portrays Donna the Makeup Lady; and The Guys All Star Shoe Band.
I’m a fan of Keillor’s radio show and the best selling book, Lake Woebegone Days, and even Meryl Street’s attempt at a Minnesota accent didn’t deter from the pleasure I had soaking in the homespun charm of “A Prairie Home Companion.” The film is rated PG-13 for risqué humor, much (but not all) of which comes from Dusty and Lefty’s slightly off-color jokes and crude humor. For more information, visit www.aprairiehomecompanionmovie.com.
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