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Friday, July 7, 2006
Prairie Home Companion (a movie review)
By Bryan S. (guestblogger) @ 11:36 pm

A Prairie Home Companion (IMDB)

You probably don’t know this, but I do a drop-dead impersonation of “A Prairie Home Companion” creator Garrison Keillor. It’s probably the most useless impersonation you could have in an arsenal of impersonations, unless you plan on going to an NPR meet-and-greet.

The impersonation was honed over years of listening to Keillor’s trademark storytelling style. As many Saturdays as I could, I would tune in to hear Keillor utter those (semi) famous words, “It’s been a quiet week in Lake Wobegon, my hometown …” I read several of Keillor’s books (he’s actually funnier in print than he is on the radio) as well.

So when I found out that Robert Altman was going to be putting “A Prairie Home Companion” on screen, it was a must-see.

It’s been a week since the viewing, and my sense is that the PHC movie is a lot like most episodes of the radio show - hit and miss. The story - obviously written by Keillor - is good enough. An old-time radio show is being shuttered when the local radio station is bought out by a national chain (Clear Channel, anyone?). The movie takes place as the final program is airing.

The cast is stellar, obviously. Actors like Kevin Kline (as Guy Noir), Virginia Madsen, Meryl Streep, Lily Tomlin, Woody Harrelson, Tommy Lee Jones and Lindsay Lohan wander across the stage along with voices that will be familiar to those who listen to PHC, and the musical team headed by Rich Dworski. Of the lot, Lohan is obviously out of her league.

The most enigmatic character is - ironically - Keillor, who acts as a sort of radio sage - throwing out pithy slogans in between mind-numbingly intricate anecdotes about the beginning of his career in radio.

And those expecting to hear a little news from Lake Wobegon will be sadly disappointed. There is nary a mention of Wobegon, or the many characters who make the little town where “all the women are good looking and the children above average.”

Perhaps it is a testament to the quality of the production that I just realized that while I was typing this review. Ultimately, the movie’s ending is the thing that leaves me feeling less than energized by the film. It isn’t a happy ending. In fact, it’s entirely melancholy, which is the nature of much of Keillor’s humor. On the other hand, there are numerous moments of whimsy to offset the obviously serious theme of death that hangs over the entire film.

If you’re familiar with Keillor or “A Prairie Home Companion,” it’s worth a look, just to put a face to the familiar voices, and hear Streep and Tomlin sing, but I’d wait for the DVD. And I also hope there will be some sort of movie treatment of the Lake Wobegon stories, as it’s arguable that it’s Lake Wobegon that makes PHC what it is.

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1 Comment »

  1. Apropos of nothing, I remember someone writing a hilarious Lovecraft parody that was, in essence, “What if Garrison Keillor had written The Dunwich Horror?” I’ll track it down, if you’re interested.

    Comment by Kingdaddy — Saturday, July 8, 2006 @ 3:40 pm

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