Prairie Home Companion


One of the earliest and most repeated arguments I have heard against this movie is that it seems silly to base a movie off of a radio show. The other major complaint is that it is thinly veiled attempt at poltical jabs. I am sure these are both largely held by people who have not seen the movie, because it is quite a gem that I recommend just about anyone to see. I can't say whether or not you will like it. Hell, you might hate it. But this is one of those "once in a while" kind of movie that should be appreciated.

Starting with the Dissenters

Before I move on, let me answer the dissenters, some. It makes more sense to make a movie about a multi-hour radio show than it does about a five minute comedy skit. With the "Prairie Home Companion" (the show, not the movie) being a moderately unique piece of Americana, it actually makes more sense to capture the feel of the show over a five minute skit.

I think the more serious complaint is the political one, and I think it is responsible for the backlash the movie has received. At some point, the fairly moderate news of NPR was linked to liberalism. This means that this show, a fairly conservative show, is now linked to liberalism. I have seen message board conversations which idiotically say things like watching A Praire Home Companion is attacking America. I don't know, I just assume that Fox news is being retards again and said it somewhere in their broadcasts.

What are the political elements or potentially political elements? I guess they enumerate something like this:

Apparently Altman has said some pretty bad things about this country, largely that we are falsely patriotic and we have screwed up the world scene. As normal for me, I am not going to uphold or deny what he says as being true or close to it. But for you to assume that his movie is political because of some things he said in the past makes you something of a dumbass.

The rest of it (I am dropping the anti-Christian bit because it is completely unfounded, except maybe one scene with Lily Tomlin who talks about how rock stars get away with murder but Christian stars get tossed out for minor crimes) I am going to say a big, fat "maybe" on. Lots of movies take cracks at Texans. Lots of Texans take cracks at everyone else. Its fair game. And the big business angle is probably the most overused angle in Hollywood. Usually the "little guy" loves it. To claim it is being political hear is, again, a reflection of dumbassery.

The movie does promote a way of life, but it is not a political one. It is about respecting life and being generally forgiving and hardwork. Of not taking endings as bad things. I am getting into my next point.

A Movie About Death

I have heard from various sources that Altman intended this to be a movie about death. I would assume that he did, watching it. In a short period of time, there are two deaths (one "on screen" and one only slightly off). There is dicussion of death. The one act of birth is placed as a future event. The whole movie is about the end of an era. Suicide is brought up. It makes sense to say this is a movie about death.

But it is not a sad one. It has its tear jerking moments, but this is not a movie about remorse. If anything it is the opposite, a movie about upholding what time we do have. It glorifies those little things, like biscuits and doing a job well. Flirting. Telling a joke. It is about the fullness of time.

Altman is soon to face his own death, and the words he leaves us with are "The death of an old man is not a tragedy." We are to treat every show like its our last show.

More Importantly, a Movie about Irony

I think my favorite aspect of the movie is the irony that is all over the place. We have a group of people whose very essense is about the goodness of humanity, and yet tell jokes about "I'll give you moonshine if you show me your jugs." In the midst of a "mourning" scene, we have multiple fart jokes. Altman and Keillor are juxtaposing a lived in life versus one that follows arbitrary rules. No one is painted as being hero, but most of the cast is painted as being a good guy.

Romance gets the same treatment, both bittersweet and saccharine at the same time.

I think the irony that I appreciated the most was Garrison Keillor's claim that he does not look back, does not do eulogies; yet almost all he ever does is look back in time to a different time. He is so full of stories that he is barely in the present. The contrast there does bring forth the question of what really matters and what is worth thinking about.

I really found it to be a wonderful moive.

Written by W Doug Bolden

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