This film was not at all what I had anticipated. I actually had no guesses as to what this film was going to be going in, I just knew it was about a radio show and featured an all star cast. Well, I’m happy to say that this is one of the best films I’ve ever had the pleasure of seeing. The story that’s told is simple but this film proves that just because it’s a pretty straightforward story doesn’t mean it isn’t worth telling. Led by a talented cast and anchored in a dramatic but also humorous script, A Prairie Home Companion works like a charm!
I’m not exactly sure why but I have always liked films that take place all in one night. I think when the setting and time frame is condensed. It can make room for a richer more interesting story. While the story that’s told in A Prairie Home Companion isn’t a long or complicated one, they sure do make it engrossing and heartwarming. The real focus here is the characters and their strong connection with one another through this country radio show they’ve all done for years. Because the owners have sold out to a large corporation who’s taking things over, it’s their last night doing the show and that’s what this whole film centers on.
Sometimes when you have a cast this large, certain characters can get overlooked, but not here. That’s one of this film’s great strengths. Every single character is paid attention to and I felt like I got to know all of them by the end. There really is an overwhelming sense of intimacy with this film. We as the audience feel warmly welcomed into this group of friends. It’s no small achievement to create that kind of a feeling, especially when there’s so many people, but I really did feel a great sense of love for these characters.
The script we have here invites us into these characters lives simply by letting us listen to their conversations and reminiscing. I want to be clear though, the dialogue isn’t full of a bunch of cliché sweet crap. It’s realistic conversation that these people would likely be having on the night of their last big show. Not only is it sweet, but it’s humorous a good bit of the time as well. The script also has one character that you would not expect in a film like this and that’s Virginia Madsen’s who I thought was a fabulous addition! I seriously couldn’t love her character enough. I won’t go into spoilers but her character made what was already a good film a great one, and Madsen plays her beautifully.
Meryl Streep who I of course adore, gives yet another powerhouse performance and shows us her singing skills too. Lily Tomlin, who I’m also a huge fan of, is a perfect fit for Streep’s sister, she’s funny, lovable, and a lovely singer. Woody Harrelson is a whole lot of lovable fun here, I never got tired of seeing him. Maya Rudolph provides some great comedic relief as she always does, and Garrison Keillor is simply amazing! Every cast member really seems to be all in and you can feel their dedication through their performances.
The way the film is outlined is dialogue between characters and then the actual show and the cast’s musical performances. We switch between these two modes and it never feels jarring or sloppy and feels very natural and organic. Another thing that I found very interesting was the different conversations certain characters had that let us know about another one of the characters past. The writers found great ways of giving us some character build up simply through dialogue. It’s through all of this dialogue that the warm atmosphere is created. I felt like I knew these people and I wanted to be there with them because it’s just so sweet and intimate. And Madsen’s character does a lot to add an extra layer of warmth and calmness to the overall story. Sometimes, everyone needs to see a film like A Prairie Home Companion. Films like these remind us of why we love movies.
A Prairie Home Companion really is one of the best films I’ve ever seen. The writers and the cast of this film all deserve a big round of applause because every detail of this dramedy musical is masterfully done.
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