Opening 12 Apr 2007
“It has been a quiet week in Lake Wobegon, my hometown …” were the opening words of Garrison Keillor, heard every Saturday night broadcasted live from the Fitzgerald Theater in St. Paul, Minnesota. In the film, the cast and crew of the WLT radio variety show, A Prairie Home Companion, prepare for their last live performance. While the studio camera spies on the various variety show performers in their dressing rooms, the film audience is allowed to eavesdrop on them conversing about their lives, telling jokes discussing the latest town gossip. All conversations avoid one topic: the show being shut down after 30 years running because WLT is being sold to a Texas conglomerate run by Axeman (Tommy Lee Jones). The glue that holds the night together lies in the hands of grossly pregnant stagehand, Maya Rudolf.
Garrison Keillor, as himself, appears as one of the gang but in reality he is the silent “strength behind the wheel” that encourages each member of the show to give it his/her all, in spite of their last night acting together. The strained emotional energy connected with this evening is the catalyst to comical and mysterious mishaps. The Johnson Girls (Meryl Streep and Lily Tomlin), Lola (Lindsey Lohan), Cowboys Dusty (Woody Harrelson) and Lefty (John C. Reilly) are a hoot and take their own liberties to add a little spice to their characters. The Dick-Tracy-style of story telling using a clumsy theater security guard, Guy Noir (Kevin Kline) and the appearance of a beautiful composed angel (Virginia Madsen) allowed realism to enter the storyline and symbolized a clever take on life.
Director Robert Altman with writer Keillor together produced a film with inspired imagery of a story-telling dream that was materialized. In reality, the dream lasted over a quarter of a century on live radio competing with the rise of television. It was and still is one of the most creative ideas produced in the history of radio. The story is an image of success, an image of an American dream! Even though the official Saturday evening radio broadcast of A Prairie Home Companion has come to an end, the stories of the folks from Lake Wobegon told by Garrison Keillor are still going strong today on over 500 public radio stations across America, because it’s the place, “where all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average”. (Karen Pecota)