Wednesday, May 31, 2006

MovieWatch: "The Prairie Home Companion"

"The Prairie Home Companion"
Director: Robert Altman
Fien Print Rating (Out of 100): 71
In a Nutshell: It shouldn't be surprisingly that Missouri-born Robert Altman and Minnesota native son Garrison Keillor prove to be a perfect match in "Prairie Home Companion," which somehow manages to be joyful and melancholic, laconic and full of life at the same time. It's been a long time since I took any pleasure from Keillor's radio program, so it was nice to discover how many of the moments captured in the movie hearken back to things I remembered enjoying when I was a small boy growing up in Iowa and Minnesota myself. Altman's style of managed chaos has always lent itself well to backstage dramas and he's in an obvious comfort zone here, with his freely meandering camera and inevitable overlapping dialogue. As singing sisters Meryl Streep and Lily Tomlin are particularly splendid, treating their meshing lines in the same way as they treat the melodic harmonies in their vocals. I also enjoyed the work done by Kevin Kline, Woody Harrelson and Keillor himself. Altman also deserves credit for making Lindsay Lohan seem fresh-faced and nearly innocent, much less for making the most of her singing abilities. My major reservation is that, like the radio program, the feature film of "The Prairie Home Companion" offers nothing more thematically interesting than a picture of honest and halcyon Midwestern identity and a yearning and nostalgia for that kind of wholesome (but still teasing) world. That's enough to carry a light and genial film, but not nearly enough to push it among Altman's finest.

A review may run on on Friday, June 9. But then again, it may not.

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