Wednesday, June 21, 2006

A Prairie Home Companion (2006)

An elegant elegy. As everyone who's commented on this film so far has mentioned (Robert Altman included), A Prarie Home Companion is about death. Altman has taken Garrison Keillor's famed radio program and used it to make a film about how, as Milton put it, all things move towards their end and we all, Altman included, must face the angel of death some day. A lot of filmmakers have wrestled with this, and the resulting films generally come out cold and depressing; this is not so with Altman's grand freewheeling celebration of personal and societal impermanence. It's in every way a trademark Altman film, what with the accomplished ensemble cast and the fluid roaming camera and the overlapping dialogue. But there's a certain tone (call it benign wisdom?) that sets this apart from, say, Short Cuts; it's hard to imagine the vicious cynic who left Warren Beatty to die alone in the snow making a film as gentle as this one, but these things happen sometimes. It's fizzy rather than funereal, and often laugh-out-loud funny (call me a sucker, but the "Bad Jokes" number had me giggling shamefacedly like a schoolboy), but it's also the specter of death (and, at times, Death) that keeps the film grounded. Even at its sunniest, the idea of the final curtain hangs in the back of the mind. The cast is uniformly excellent with the exception of Virginia Madsen, whose awkward character does her no favors -- even Lindsay Lohan is credible, which says something. (Whenever I see Lily Tomlin in an Altman film, I wonder why nobody else is able to use her like he does.) And the songs are great as well, catchy and homespun without being cloying. Never knew I had such a soft spot for well-tuned Americana, but there it is...

Grade: A-


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home