A Prairie Home Companion (film)
|A Prairie Home Companion|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Robert Altman
Paul Thomas Anderson (Uncredited)
|Produced by||Robert Altman
|Written by||Garrison Keillor|
John C. Reilly
Tommy Lee Jones
|Music by||Garrison Keillor|
New Line Cinema
|Running time||106 minutes|
A Prairie Home Companion is a 2006 ensemble comedy directed by Robert Altman. It was Altman's final film; he died in November 2006. The movie is a fictional representation of behind-the-scenes activities at the long-running public radio show of the same name.
A long-running live radio show is in danger of being canceled by new owners of the company that holds both radio station "WLT" and the theater where the show is broadcast. The film takes place on the night of the show's last performance. The show has two visitors: an angel calling herself Asphodel (Virginia Madsen) comes to comfort the people who work on the show and to escort one of them to the afterlife, while "the Axeman" (Tommy Lee Jones), a representative of the new owners, arrives to judge whether the show should be canceled. He makes it clear that the show is not what he considers modern popular programming, and though he too is escorted by the angel, the show is shut down anyway. In an epilogue at the end of the film the former cast members are reunited at Mickey's Diner. Their conversation pauses as they are joined by Asphodel.
- Garrison Keillor (the show's creator) as himself
- Meryl Streep as Yolanda Johnson (Streep later appeared on the actual radio show, reprising this role)
- Lily Tomlin as Rhonda Johnson, sister of Yolanda. They are from Oshkosh, Wisconsin, the last two members of a bygone family country music act
- Lindsay Lohan as Lola Johnson, who writes about suicide. She is Yolanda's daughter
- Woody Harrelson as Dusty, a singing cowboy
- John C. Reilly as Lefty, a singing cowboy
- Tommy Lee Jones as the Axeman, a businessman from Texas who has come to shut down the show
- Kevin Kline as Keillor's radio character Guy Noir, a film noir P.I. repurposed as the program's security director
- Virginia Madsen as the Dangerous Woman, "Asphodel", who may or may not be the Angel of Death (Asphodel is a flower, referenced in the poem "Demeter And Persephone" by Alfred Lord Tennyson and associated with death and Hades in Greek mythology)
- L. Q. Jones as Chuck Akers
- Tim Russell as the stage manager
- Maya Rudolph as the assistant stage manager
- Robin and Linda Williams as themselves (singing duo)
- Tom Keith as the Sound-Effects Guy
- Sue Scott as the Make-Up Artist
To receive insurance for the shoot, Robert Altman had to hire Paul Thomas Anderson as a "backup" director to observe filming at all times and be prepared to take over for Altman in case of his incapacity. Using the working title The Last Show, principal photography for the film began on June 29, 2005, at the Fitzgerald Theater in St. Paul, Minnesota (the usual venue for the radio show). Filming ended on July 28, 2005. The film was the second major picture (after North Country, starring Charlize Theron and Harrelson) to be filmed in Minnesota in 2005.
Because the Fitzgerald is a rather small building, other stage theaters in the Minneapolis-St. Paul region had been considered as stand-ins. With some effort, the necessary film equipment was crammed into the structure. The basement was also used for sets due to lack of space. Set design had to make the show more visually interesting, and fake dressing rooms were used in the film (the movie's production designer noted that Keillor's actual dressing room is "about the size of a very, very small bathroom"). Mickey's Diner, a downtown St. Paul landmark, is also featured.
On November 1, 2005, the Star Tribune reported that an early screening in New York City for film distributors resulted in a heavy bidding war. Picturehouse bought the rights, and company president Bob Berney, "aiming to capitalize on the name recognition of the 31-year-old radio program, recommended that the title revert to A Prairie Home Companion. 'At the screening, Garrison said that to broaden the film's appeal, they were thinking about changing the name to Savage Love, so we may have an argument there,' Berney said."
A Prairie Home Companion opened the 2006 South by Southwest film festival on March 10, then premiered in St. Paul, on May 3, 2006, at the Fitzgerald Theater, which had projection and sound equipment brought in for that purpose. The film's stars arrived in ten horse-drawn carriages. Brian Williams of NBC Nightly News anchored his newscast from neighboring Minneapolis, Minnesota, that night so that he would be able to attend.
Critics' general reaction to the film was favorable, and it garnered an 81% fresh rating at Rotten Tomatoes. Roger Ebert awarded the film four out of four stars, saying, "What a lovely film this is, so gentle and whimsical, so simple and profound", and later added the film to his "Great Movies" list.
Michael Medved gave the film one and a half stars out of four, saying, "The entertainment value stands somewhere between thin and nonexistent" and "[it may be] the worst movie ever made that pooled the talents of four (count ‘em – four!) Oscar winners".
Desson Thomson from The Washington Post fell in between, saying in a review headlined "Honey, You Could Ask for More" (a reference to the theme song of the radio show and film) that while the movie had its strengths, it was weaker than it should have been.
The film had a successful limited release in the United States and grossed $20,338,609 domestically and $25,978,442 worldwide.
Home media 
The DVD was released on October 10, 2006. Special features included deleted scenes, a behind-the-scenes documentary, and commentary by Altman and Kline. A Prairie Home Companion Original Motion Picture Soundtrack was released on May 23, 2006, by New Line.
- Nat Segaloff, Final Cuts: The Last Films of 50 Great Directors, Bear Manor Media 2013 p 26
- Indie Wire
- Kaufman, Peter. "Radio for the Eyes". The Washington Post.
- Carr, David (July 23, 2005). "Lake Wobegon Goes Hollywood (or Is It Vice Versa?), With a Pretty Good Cast". The New York Times.
- "A Prairie Home Companion". Chicago Sun-Times. June 8, 2006.
- "A Prairie Home Companion (2006)". Chicago Sun-Times. November 12, 2008.
- Michael Medved's Movie Minute
- Thomson, Desson (June 9, 2006). "Honey, You Could Ask for More". The Washington Post.
- Official site
- A Prairie Home Companion at the Internet Movie Database
- A Prairie Home Companion at AllMovie
- A Prairie Home Companion at Box Office Mojo