A Prairie Home Companion is a 2006 American musical comedy film directed by Robert Altman and is his final film. It is a fictional representation of behind-the-scenes activities at the long-running public radio show of the same name. The film received mostly positive reviews and was a moderate box-office success on a small budget. The film features an ensemble cast including Woody Harrelson, Tommy Lee Jones, Garrison Keillor, Kevin Kline, Lindsay Lohan, Virginia Madsen, John C. Reilly, Maya Rudolph, Meryl Streep, and Lily Tomlin.
|A Prairie Home Companion|
|Directed by||Robert Altman|
|Screenplay by||Garrison Keillor|
|Based on||A Prairie Home Companion|
by Garrison Keillor
|Edited by||Jacob Craycroft|
|Music by||Garrison Keillor|
|Box office||$26 million|
In Saint Paul, Minnesota, the long-running live radio variety show A Prairie Home Companion prepares for its final broadcast, unbeknown to the listening audience. The radio station's new parent company has scheduled the show's home, the storied Fitzgerald Theater, for demolition, and dispatched "the Axeman" to judge whether to save the show.
In between musical acts, and under the watchful eye of PI Guy Noir (Kevin Kline), the show's denizens mingle and reminisce, including: the singing Johnson Girls, Yolanda (Meryl Streep), her sister Rhonda (Lily Tomlin), and daughter Lola (Lindsay Lohan); cowboy duo Dusty (Woody Harrelson) and Lefty (John C. Reilly); pregnant PA Molly (Maya Rudolph); the Stage Manager, Makeup Lady, and Sound Effects Man (real life Radio Acting Co. members Tim Russell, Sue Scott, and Tom Keith); and the show's creator and host, Garrison Keillor (often called "GK").
The show is visited by an otherworldly "Dangerous Woman" (Virginia Madsen) in a white trench coat revealed to be Lois Peterson, a listener who died in a car accident while listening to a past broadcast, now returned as the angel Asphodel; she lends comfort to the cast and crew for the show's ending and the death of the elderly Chuck Akers (L. Q. Jones) backstage.
The Axeman (Tommy Lee Jones) arrives and swiftly declares the show too old-fashioned to keep on the air. Asphodel escorts him from the theater to an untimely demise, but the show is still canceled.
Years later, the former cast reunites at Mickey's Diner with plans for a farewell tour. Their lively conversation pauses as Asphodel enters the diner.
- Garrison Keillor as Himself
- Kevin Kline as Guy Noir
- Meryl Streep as Yolanda Johnson
- Lily Tomlin as Rhonda Johnson
- Lindsay Lohan as Lola Johnson
- Woody Harrelson as Dusty
- John C. Reilly as Lefty
- Tommy Lee Jones as the Axeman
- Virginia Madsen as the Dangerous Woman
- Maya Rudolph as Molly
- Marylouise Burke as Lunchlady
- L. Q. Jones as Chuck Akers
- Tim Russell as the Stage Manager
- Tom Keith as the Sound Effects Man
- Sue Scott as the Makeup Lady
- Robin and Linda Williams as themselves
- Jearlyn Steele as herself
- Bruce Bohne as Actor
- Matthew Feeney as Actor
- Jim Westcott as Actor
- Punnavith Koy as Actor
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 radio show's usual venue), and ended on July 28, 2005.
The film grossed $20,338,609 domestically (in a limited release) and $25,978,442 worldwide.
A Prairie Home Companion opened the 2006 South by Southwest film festival on March 10, then premiered on May 3, 2006, at the Fitzgerald Theater, which had projection and sound equipment brought in for the 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. On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 82% based on 197 reviews, with an average rating of 7.12/10. The website's critics consensus reads: "The final film by the great Robert Altman, A Prairie Home Companion, the big screen adaptation of Garrison Keillor's radio broadcast showcases plenty of the director's strengths: it's got a gigantic cast and plenty of quirky acting and dialogue." 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 (himself a radio host) 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, writing in a review headlined "Honey, You Could Ask for More" (a reference to the radio show's theme song) that while the movie had its strengths, it was weaker than it should have been.
|A Prairie Home Companion|
|Soundtrack album by |
|Released||May 23, 2006|
|Recorded||Fitzgerald Theater in St. Paul, Minnesota|
|1.||"Tishomingo Blues"||Garrison Keillor, Spencer Williams||Garrison Keillor||1:58|
|2.||"Gold Watch and Chain"||A. P. Carter||Garrison Keillor and Meryl Streep||2:39|
|3.||"Mudslide"||Pat Donohue||The Guys All-Star Shoe Band||3:06|
|4.||"Let Your Light Shine on Me"||Blind Willie Johnson||Garrison Keillor, Robin and Linda Williams and Prudence Johnson||2:50|
|5.||"Coffee Jingle"||Keillor, Kate MacKenzie||Garrison Keillor and Jearlyn Steele||0:52|
|6.||"Summit Avenue Rag"||Richard Dworsky||The Guys All-Star Shoe Band||2:44|
|7.||"Guy's Shoes"||Donohue||The Guys All-Star Shoe Band||0:42|
|8.||"Whoop-I-Ti-Yi-Yo"||Keillor, Traditional||Woody Harrelson and John C. Reilly||2:32|
|9.||"Coming Down from Red Lodge"||Peter Ostroushko||The Guys All-Star Shoe Band||1:55|
|10.||"You Have Been a Friend to Me"||Carter||L. Q. Jones||2:27|
|11.||"Old Plank Road"||Robin and Linda Williams||Robin and Linda Williams||2:50|
|12.||"My Minnesota Home"||Stephen Foster, Keillor||Meryl Streep and Lily Tomlin||3:38|
|13.||"A Bunch of Guys"||Dworsky||The Guys All-Star Shoe Band||2:01|
|14.||"Slow Days of Summer"||Keillor||Garrison Keillor||3:02|
|15.||"Frankie and Johnny"||Keillor, Traditional||Lindsay Lohan||2:05|
|16.||"Waitin' for You"||Donohue||The Guys All-Star Shoe Band||2:41|
|17.||"Jens Jensen's Herring"||Keillor, Traditional||The Guys All-Star Shoe Band||0:47|
|18.||"Red River Valley"||Traditional||Garrison Keillor and Jearlyn Steele||3:23|
|19.||"Strappin' the Strings"||Andy Stein||The Guys All-Star Shoe Band||2:27|
|20.||"Goodbye to My Mama"||Keillor||Meryl Streep and Lily Tomlin||3:28|
|21.||"Bad Jokes"||Keillor||Woody Harrelson and John C. Reilly||4:42|
|22.||"The Day Is Short"||Dworsky, Keillor||Jearlyn Steele||3:13|
|23.||"Atlanta Twilight"||Dworsky||The Guys All-Star Shoe Band||2:36|
|24.||"Red River Valley"/"In the Sweet By-and-By"||Traditional||Cast Ensemble||3:20|
|25.||"Guy Noir"||Keillor||The Guys All-Star Shoe Band||2:26|
|US Billboard 200||160|
|US Billboard Top Country Albums||35|
|US Billboard Top Independent Albums||10|
|US Billboard Top Soundtracks||7|
Home media Edit
The DVD was released on October 10, 2006. Special features included deleted scenes, a behind-the-scenes documentary, and commentary by Altman and Kline. As of 2021, the film has not been released on Blu-ray.
- Brunette, Peter (13 February 2006). "A Prairie Home Companion". Screen Daily. Retrieved 25 October 2021.
- Nat Segaloff, Final Cuts: The Last Films of 50 Great Directors, Bear Manor Media 2013 p 26
- The film was the second major picture (after North Country, starring Charlize Theron and Harrelson) to be filmed in Minnesota in 2005.
- Indie Wire Archived June 11, 2006, at the Wayback Machine
- 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 (2006)". Retrieved 25 May 2020 – via www.rottentomatoes.com.
- "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 Archived 2008-03-11 at the Wayback Machine
- Thomson, Desson (June 9, 2006). "Honey, You Could Ask for More". The Washington Post.
- Monger, James Christopher. "A Prairie Home Companion [New Line] – Original Soundtrack". AllMusic. Retrieved September 13, 2013.
- "A Prairie Home Companion [New Line] – Original Soundtrack | Awards". AllMusic. Retrieved September 13, 2013.