Sunday, June 18, 2006

A Prarie Home Companion

It's a hot weekend and I'd spend most of it in an air-conditioned movie theater if I thought I could manage that without needing constant popcorn. But I did go see "A Prarie Home Companion" yesterday, the movie about a fictional radio show written and starring Garrison Keillor, host of a real radio show of the same name. I have to say up front I'm not a huge fan of Garrison Keillor. I feel like I should be, being a dedicated NPR listener, plus my mother is a huge fan, but I find myself turning off the radio when he comes on. I'm not sure why - maybe it's just too hokey, or balanced too much toward the unfamiliar music and not the comical sketches which I prefer. But the film is directed by Robert Altman, which made for an interesting and enticing combination, so I plunked down my $9 for an air-conditioned seat.

So the movie is pretty much like the radio show - except there really aren't skits, as most of those bits were turned into the "plot" of the film. For example, Guy Noir, a standard Keillor character, is an actual person played by Kevin Kline. Sure, Keillor starts telling long rambling stories, but in the movie they're all off-stage and treated with comical tolerance ("Oh, there goes Garrison again") and the camera wanders away looking for something meatier to share with us. Kudos for Keillor's poking fun at his own self. He's actually fairly endearing throughout, but he's overshadowed by some truly great actors: Meryl Streep, Lily Tomlin, John C. Reilly, even Woody Harrelson. Watching them perform was fun; sitting through the "plot" off the radio stage wasn't as much.

We get to see Lindsay Lohan as a blonde, but I can't watch that without remembering how she was constantly in the gossip pages while the movie was being filmed for her wild antics. It's hard not to look for signs of wear and tear, but although she is pretty skinny, she holds up well. (Except for a prologue scene in which she comes across as someone who wandered into a "Saturday Night Live" skit with only a half hour of rehearsal.)

Meryl Streep is a surprisingly good singer. John C. Reilly is also good, although not as much of a surprise if you saw him in "Chicago." It's worthwhile enough to see just to enjoy the fun they and the others are having, but if you're not a "Prarier Home Companion" fan, I don't think this movie will make you one.


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