25 June 2006
  a prairie home companion

when i was reading reviews on rotten tomatoes for prairie home i wasn't really sure what to expect. one of the reviewers cited said that the problem with the movie is that it exudes a sort of nostalgia for a time that never truly existed. i have been listening to "prairie home" on npr and reading garrison keillor almost as long as i can remember. i don't claim to be the biggest fan of the radio program, but it is definitely a piece of history to me. the program IS nostalgia in and of itself. so i take some issue with the above cited review. if the film doesn't elicit a feeling of nostalgia for this particular critic, perhaps it will in due time.

the movie is essentially a real time omniscient perspective on the making of the fictional last episode of "a prairie home companion," garrison keillor's famous live radio show. a conglomerate led by tommy lee jones has bought the radio station and has plans to end the reign of the show, which they deem to be from another era. i assumed going in that the movie would chronicle the efforts of the cast to change the conglomerate's decision. and that really isn't the point at all. it is really a film about the role of fate and the efforts of a higher power to make the world right.

that being said, this is the most hilarious movie about death ever made. the film is literally obsessed with death and dying: the death of the show, the deaths of the cast members, the death of an era. it is a distinctively dark comedy, but it is still funny nonetheless. at one point keillor says that he refuses to do eulogies because, at his age, if he starts he might never be able to stop. it seems like everything is dying at one time. the show is coming to an end. the cast is aging. and the world is becoming increasingly commercialized. the film is a sort of eulogy in and of itself, not for some idyllic past necessarily, but rather for a the past of a particular generation. and it leaves you with the message that there is no way to stop the progression of time; that is left up to fate. but that doesn't mean we need to forget what has passed.

i am sure it doesn't surprise anyone that the highlight of this movie is meryl streep and lily tomlin. they play two singing sisters, and their performances genuinely make this movie. both of them should be nominated for a single academy award for the overlapping dialogue they engage in. i don't know how much of it is scripted, but a lot of it seems really improvised. it is definitely an impressive effort (and lily tomlin makes me laugh no matter what movie she is in).

other high points include garrison keillor's long winded speech about duct tape (complete with sound effects), woody harrelson and john c. reilly's song of bad jokes, and kevin kline's silly turn as detective guy noir. all in all the movie is filled with very funny moments, speeches and songs interspersed with very dark observations about the inevitablity of time. but the entire film is composed of very well written dialogue performed by many of the greatest actors of the 21st Century. so you really cant go wrong with that.
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