A Prairie Home Companion

A Prairie Home Companion (2006) movie poster

(2006) dir. Robert Altman
viewed: 07/30/07

Part two of my Lindsay Lohan arrest double feature actually took me nearly a week to get around to seeing.  This film isn’t so much a “Lindsay Lohan” flick as it is a typical Robert Altman ensemble cast in which screen time is pretty equally distributed.  This is, of course, Altman’s swan song, the last film he completed before passing away last November.  While Altman certainly had a number of excellent films to his credit, including Thieves Like Us (1974) & McCabe & Mrs. Miller (1971), A Prairie Home Companion, a strange narrative set against the pretended final performance of the long-running radio show, is almost criminally boring, clunky, and, while not devoid of charm or moments, feels like a pretty big waste of time and effort.

No real discredit to Garrison Keillor or any of his strange, laconic amusing creations, which I have never been particularly partial to myself, but can appreciate from afar, but the biggest problem is probably the rambling, boring script, featuring the most tepid of narratives about the show and theater getting bought by some bloodless Texas firm simply to shut it down contrasted against the charm and talents of the performers and the traditions that they have carried on and parodied throughout the years.

The most oddball part of it, the ghost/”Dangerous Woman”/Azrael character played by Virginia Madsen doesn’t really make a lot of sense.  Again, this is maybe due to the weakness of the script.  The film is largely about death.  Madsen comes as the angel of death to take away an aging singer, there is the death of the show, the death of tradition, Lohan’s feebly suicide-obsessed poetry…  There is an aura of death, for sure.  But frankly, I don’t know what the whole point is.  It’s not really a meditation or anything clear, and the film keeps cutting back and forth between performances and the back-stage story so much that it’s hard to figure out what’s supposed to be important.

Kevin Kline is amusing in his delivery and slap-stick moments, but it seems like he is supposed to be in some other film.  No one else acts like him in it.

Lohan, as Lola, a character so named by Keillor after the great song “Whatever Lola Wants” since apparently Lohan got herself into the film when there wasn’t even a role for her, is barely different from anything else she’s been in.  Less flat-out comical, I guess, but still just a teenager.  Whatever.  I still want to see I Know Who Killed Me (2007), especially because of the bad reviews.

And as for Altman, this is not an embarrassment, just lame.  He’ll be remembered for a lot of things, a lot of films, but hopefully not this one.

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