Sunday, 13 June 2010


Robert Altman is, without doubt, one of the great American directors, although I have followed his career from a distance inasmuch as I own nothing by him. A PRARIE HOME COMPANION was the last film made before his death and it is a superb final effort and a perfect example of the ensemble style that Altman made his own over the years. It is based on the popular radio show of the same name by Garrison Keillor (above with Meryl Streep and Lindsay Lohan) which is a sort of cod version of the Grand Old Opry complete with singing cowboys, folksy humour and even fake adverts. I catch the show on the radio sometimes and it is an absolute delight which sounds like it is coming through a time warp from the early 1950's. The film expands on this and is set during the show's final broadcast before being cancelled by the new radio station owner (a wonderfully unsympathetic Tommy lee Jones) and while the show is being visited by an angel (Virginia Madsen) who has come to take one of the cast to meet God.The humour is subtle, dry and extremely laid back and is tuned perfectly to Keillor's own straight-faced delivery (he appears as the show's host - simply called GK) and the cast is simply magnificent - Meryl Streep, Lily Tomlin and Lynsey Lohan as the Johnson Family singers, Woody Harrelson and John C.Riley as the singing cowboys intent on slipping dirty songs by the show's producer, L.Q.Jones as an ageing country star and Kevin Kline as the immaculate, preening, hard-boiled detective Guy Noir. It's funny and the music is pretty good and above all it is a wonderfully tender film that really does have something worthwhile to say about human values, loyalty etc. One of the best I've seen this year. Rating *****

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