Directed by: Robert Altman
Premise: A fictionalized last broadcast of Garrison Keillor’s radio program.
What Works: A Prairie Home Companion mixes musical performances with Altman’s freestyle comedy and Keillor’s Minnesota sensibility. The combination is a successful one. The characters are colorful and their musical performances are very entertaining. The banter between the characters utilizes the best of Altman’s filmmaking approach, allowing actors to create, but at the same time using the premise of the story, the closing of the theater, to give the story some shape. The film nails elements of Minnesotan culture and Minnesotan sensibilities in ways that are not exaggerated like they were in Fargo.
What Doesn’t: Like most other Altman films, A Prairie Home Companion does not conform to the usual rules or conventions of structured three act narratives. Altman’s films often eschew plot and formal writing in favor of allowing actors to experiment and ad lib their dialogue. While some have praised this technique, it creates situations in which scenes ramble on and on and stories that come to no conclusion.
DVD extras: Commentary track, featurette, extended musical segments, trailers.
Bottom Line: A Prairie Home Companion is an interesting film within Altman’s career. It mixes the narrative more successfully than some of his other work, while retaining Altman’s signature style.
Episode: #120 (December 3, 2006)