Now this is something new for me; a movie that is based on a radio program. I think the only other time I have seen something like this is when I watched The Shadow. However, unlike The Shadow, I had actually heard the radio show that today’s movie was based on during some times of random station surfing while driving. Now even though I was familiar with the radio show, I honestly had no intention of seeing this movie. However, several people I know have said that it was a good movie so, for some reason, I decided to buy it when it was on sale while Blockbusters was closing. So let’s see if my friends were right about today’s movie, A Prairie Home Companion.
The plot: Guy Noir, a former private eye, has been working security for a radio program called A Prairie Home Companion, which runs out of the Fitzgerald Theater. As people walk into the theater to watch the live showing on a Saturday night, Guy thinks to himself how this will be the final show since a Texas company bought the radio station and is sending an axeman to close down the theater and turn it into a parking lot. As the cast gets ready for their final performance, they all try not to talk about the fact that it will be their last show, but reminisce about all the various times they have had on the show. Yolanda and Rhonda Johnson are telling Yolanda’s daughter Lola some of the stories about their family while elsewhere, Dusty and Lefty are speaking with Garrison Keillor (GK) about some of the old radio programs that have come and gone. As the show starts, the stage manager talks with Guy about a call from a strange woman and Guy says he met her, and as he describes the woman to the stage manager, the woman enters the theater through a side door in the alley. Some time later, as the show continues, the woman makes her way backstage and runs into Guy, who asks if he can help her but she says no, saying she is where she should be. Later, Guy is talking with some of the people backstage and mentions the woman wandering around and says that he feels like the woman might save the show by the end of the night. During some of the acts, Yolanda asks GK if there would be a spot for Lola to sing during the show and later, GK tells Lola some stories about how he met her father and got on radio, and how her parent’s met when he accidentally left her father in Oshkosh while they were driving to Chicago. The strange woman is seen talking to Chuck, one of the cast, and follows him when he leaves the stage. Later, Chuck is seen prepping his dressing room for a date with the lunch lady, who has a relationship with, but ends up dying. When the lunch lady shows up, she is upset that he is dead but the woman comforts her and helps her with it. Later, the woman goes up to GK as he is sitting off stage and tells him that she is an angel named Asphodel and used to listen to their show when she was alive. She tells him that she was listening to GK tell a joke about penguins when she was killed in a car wreck, then tells him about some of her duties as an angel. Later, Asphodel tells Guy that her job is finished and she is leaving, just as the axeman shows up. Guy takes the axeman up to the VIP booth and speaks with him for a little while and after learning that his mind is already made up to close the show, Guy excuses himself and calls Molly, the stage runner, and gives her a message to give to Asphodel, saying to take out the man in the booth. Meanwhile, news of Chuck’s death has spread to the rest of the cast and some people are taking it hard but GK says they owe it to Chuck’s memory to continue with the show. When the show is almost over, the stage manager realizes that they are 6 minutes short so Yolanda convinces Lola to go out and sing one of her songs. As the show wraps up, Asphodel shows up in the booth and speaks with the axeman briefly before he leaves, telling his driver to take the shortcut to the airport Asphodel mentioned. The next day, Guy talks about how the axeman died in a car crash but it didn’t matter as the show was still cancelled and the theater is rigged to be demolished. Some time later, Guy, GK, Yolanda and Rhonda are reminiscing at the local diner, being joined briefly by Dusty, Lefty, and Lola, and as they are all laughing, Asphodel walks in and approaches the table.
A Prairie Home Companion met with mostly praise from the critics, holding a certified fresh rating of 81% on Rotten Tomatoes. The critical consensus on the site is that, “The final film by the great Robert Altman, A Prairie Home Companion, the big screen adaptation of Garrison Keillor’s radio broadcast showcases plenty of the director’s strengths: it’s got a gigantic cast and plenty of quirky acting and dialogue.” This would be Robert Altman’s last film but for insurance purposes due to his suffering from leukemia, a standby director was hired to observe and take over if he became incapacitated. The movie had a limited release but was still successful, earning $26 million off of a $10 million budget.
Yeh, not my normal cup of tea but this wasn’t a bad movie. The acting was pretty good, with several people turning into really good performances such as Kevin Kline (Guy), Garrison Keillor (GK), and (a surprisingly pre-crazy) Lindsay Lohan. The story was a little confusing, not so much the radio show aspects itself, but some of the backstage sequences, which seemed to just be random place-fillers at times. There were several funny moments in the movie, especially one rather unscripted part where Kevin Kline is opening a bottle of champagne and the cork flies off camera, hitting Altman in the forehead, and Kline looks off camera and, without breaking character, says “Sorry” then continues speaking his lines. There was also some more serious moments that showed quite a bit of character development, particularly with Lindsey Lohan’s character. A cute, somewhat funny movie that is worth watching.
Rating: 3 out of 5