Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.
USA, 2006. Picturehouse, GreeneStreet Films, River Road Entertainment, , Prairie Home Productions. Story by Garrison Keillor, Ken LaZebnik, Screenplay by Garrison Keillor, based on the radio program by Garrison Keillor. Cinematography by Edward Lachman. Produced by Robert Altman, Wren Arthur, Joshua Astrachan, Tony Judge, David Levy. Production Design by Dina Goldman. Costume Design by Catherine Marie Thomas. Film Editing by Jacob Craycroft. Gotham Awards 2006. Independent Spirit Awards 2006.
Garrison Keillor‘s popular radio variety show has been transferred to the screen in this fictionalized account of the program’s final broadcast. Keillor appears as himself, hosting the fun while musical performers played by the likes of Meryl Streep and Woody Harrelson work out their personal lives between lovely performances of some sweet but never overly memorable folk and country songs. Streep and Lily Tomlin are terrific as sisters who have been performing for years, one naive but passionate and the other sarcastic but loving, while Streep’s death-obsessed daughter (Lindsay Lohan) does her best to remain cool and above the action. Harrelson and song-partner John C. Reilly have to fend off the censorship of their lewd material, Kevin Kline is the exuberantly wordy security guard Guy Noir trying to keep the show safe from outside harm, Maya Rudolph the exasperated P.A. who is about to give birth at any moment, and L.Q. Jones the aging crooner who is still seducing girls like a horny teenager. In comes Virginia Madsen, perfectly lovely as a guardian angel who died while listening to the show and has now come to claim another soul for heaven. The whole time the performers are awaiting the arrival of a corporate businessman (Tommy Lee Jones) who has purchased their theatre and is planning to turn it into a parking lot as soon as the broadcast concludes. The film isn’t excellent by any means, but it is dripping in a palpable nostalgia that will provide the audience with a nice experience if not an earth-shattering one. Streep’s singing is gorgeous, and Harrelson and Reilly get a lot of fun out of their tunes. The film would turn out be another goodbye, as it was Altman’s last completed film before his death in 2006.