Sunday, December 31, 2006

A Prairie Home Companion

2006, US, directed by Robert Altman

Although I can't help thinking that A Prairie Home Companion's appearance on many a 2006 "Ten Best" list has more to do with the recent death of Robert Altman than with the film itself, it's still a lovely end to a career, with many treasurable small moments that illustrate the director's great eye - when he's on form - for the details of human foibles. The film is a loose adaptation of writer-presenter Garrison Keillor's long-running radio show, and purports to be the story behind the radio show's final broadcast (the portrait of rapacious capitalism destroying folk culture loses much of its sting, though, in the face of the show's continued real-life health despite its unfashionable style). Though Keillor loves his radio, his script also reveals him as an afficionado of the backstage tale: this is a film by and about show-people, and the actors look as though they're having tremendous fun with the material (though Meryl Streep's character eventually becomes wearing, she does belt out a great tune); it's especially enjoyable to see some of the radio characters given life (Kevin Kline is spot-on as detective Guy Noir). Although the set-up doesn't parallel the real-life history of the radio show, there's an unforced poignancy over the whole film that's utterly convincing and ultimately very moving - and that's inevitably bound up with the knowledge of Altman's own passing.

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Boston, Massachusetts, United States