Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

An Enjoyable 'Companion'; Robert Altman's Film Should Please Fans of Beloved Radio Show

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

An Enjoyable 'Companion'; Robert Altman's Film Should Please Fans of Beloved Radio Show

Article excerpt

Byline: MATT SOERGEL

Every fan of Garrison Keillor's radio show, A Prairie Home Companion, could find some things they would have changed in his movie, A Prairie Home Companion. That's what it's like when you've been living for so long with the show that has been on the air, as one character says, "since Jesus was in the third grade."

But they'll still embrace the film. How could you not? It's laid-back and rambling, just like on the radio, and director Robert Altman gently steers the action - such as it is - as a radio show much like the real A Prairie Home Companion comes to hectic life on stage.

Keillor spoofs himself as an absent-minded radio host named GK, who spins rambling and inconsequential tales up until the second the show starts. Then we're in for ads for rhubarb pie, pickled herring and duct tape, in between folksy musical numbers, sound effects and comedy acts.

Kevin Kline shows up as Keillor's private-eye Guy Noir, now working security for the radio show, where Guy's fedora has been turned by a woman, a beautiful, mysterious woman in white.

"She gave me a smile so sweet you could've poured it on your pancakes," Noir says, while also noting that her Mount Rushmore T-shirt did wonderful things for Washington and Lincoln.

But it's soon clear that the mysterious woman (Virginia Madsen) might be an angel of death. And, indeed, death is a theme of the film. Characters die, and so does the radio show, thanks to a "big corporation in Texas" that wants to build a parking lot on the spot of the cozy old theater where the show is performed (the real-life Fitzgerald, in St. Paul, Minn.).

In reaction to that, Kline's Guy Noir gets in one comical rant at Texans. But the story really has no time for rancor.

Instead, without making a fuss about it - that wouldn't be Minnesotan of them, if they made a fuss - it's about the importance of compassion and decency, of corny jokes and old-time music. …

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