A Prairie Home Companion (movie)

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A Prairie Home Companion is a 2006 American ensemble comedy movie. It was directed by Robert Altman. It was Altman's last movie before he died in November 2006. The movie is a fictional story of behind-the-scenes activities at the long-running public radio show A Prairie Home Companion.

Plot[change | change source]

A long-running live radio show is in danger of being canceled by the new owners. The company owns both the radio station "WLT" and the theater where the show is broadcast. The movie takes place on the night of the show's last performance. The show has two visitors. The first is an angel calling herself Asphodel (Virginia Madsen). She comes to comfort the people who work on the show and to escort one of them to the afterlife. The other visitor is "the Axeman" (Tommy Lee Jones). He is the representative of the new owners who arrives to decide whether the show should be canceled. He makes it clear that the show is not what he considers modern popular programming. Although he too is escorted by the angel, the show is shut down anyway. In an epilogue at the end of the movie, the former cast members are reunited at Mickey's Diner. Their conversation pauses as they are joined by Asphodel.

Cast[change | change source]

Production notes[change | change source]

To receive insurance for the shoot, Robert Altman had to hire Paul Thomas Anderson. He was a "backup" director who could take over if Altman could not work,[1] The movie had the working title The Last Show. Principal photography started on June 29, 2005, at the Fitzgerald Theater in St. Paul, Minnesota. That is where the radio show is broadcast from. Filming ended on July 28, 2005. The movie was the second major picture to be filmed in Minnesota in 2005. (The first was North Country, starring Charlize Theron and Harrelson,)

The Fitzgerald is a rather small building. Because of that, the movie makers thought about using other stage theaters in the Minneapolis-St. Paul region. With some effort, the necessary movie equipment was crammed into the structure. The basement was also used for sets due to lack of space.[2] Set design had to make the show more visually interesting. Fake dressing rooms were used in the movie. 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 in the movie.

On November 1, 2005, the Star Tribune reported that an early screening in New York City for movie distributors resulted in a heavy bidding war. Picturehouse bought the rights. 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 movie's appeal, they were thinking about changing the name to Savage Love, so we may have an argument there,' Berney said."

Reception[change | change source]

Critics[change | change source]

A Prairie Home Companion opened the 2006 South by Southwest movie festival on March 10. It then premiered in St. Paul, on May 3, 2006, at the Fitzgerald Theater. The movie's stars arrived in ten horse-drawn carriages. Brian Williams of NBC Nightly News did his newscast from neighboring Minneapolis, Minnesota, that night so that he could attend.

Critics' general reaction to the movie was favorable. It got an 81% fresh rating at Rotten Tomatoes. Roger Ebert gave the movie four out of four stars. He wrote, "What a lovely film this is, so gentle and whimsical, so simple and profound".[3] Ebert later added the movie to his "Great Movies" list.[4]

Michael Medved gave the movie one and a half stars out of four. He wrote, "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".[5]

Desson Thomson from The Washington Post said that while the movie had its strengths, it was weaker than it should have been.[6]

Awards[change | change source]

Meryl Streep won the Best Supporting Actress Award from the National Society of Film Critics for her role. Altman was also posthumously nominated for an Independent Spirit Award for Best Director.

Box office[change | change source]

The movie had a successful limited release in the United States. It grossed $20,338,609 in the United States. It grossed $25,978,442 worldwide.

Home media [change | change source]

The movie's DVD was released on October 10, 2006.[7] 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.

References[change | change source]

  1. Carr, David (July 23, 2005). "Lake Wobegon Goes Hollywood (or Is It Vice Versa?), With a Pretty Good Cast". The New York Times.
  2. Kaufman, Peter. "Radio for the Eyes". The Washington Post.
  3. "A Prairie Home Companion". Chicago Sun-Times. June 8, 2006.
  4. "A Prairie Home Companion (2006)". Chicago Sun-Times. November 12, 2008.
  5. Michael Medved's Movie Minute
  6. Thomson, Desson (June 9, 2006). "Honey, You Could Ask for More". The Washington Post.
  7. "Prairie Home Companion DVD". CD Universe. Retrieved 18 July 2014.

Other websites[change | change source]