Aw, shucks, 'Companion' has a lot to like


A Prairie Home Companion is a down-home-exquisite musical dramedy. It fills you with a joyful noise even when the subject is mortality. Working from a script by Garrison Keillor, with some of the personalities and/or characters from Keillor's radio show of the same name, the director, Robert Altman, achieves a homespun-gossamer texture. That's a miracle for a movie about a buttoned-up Minnesotan, Keillor, known here as "GK," hosting an old-fashioned live variety program with a cast of radio performers whose messy lives intersect uproariously and unexpectedly with their on-air personae.

The movie revolves around "the Axeman," a corporate honcho from Texas (Tommy Lee Jones) arriving at the Fitzgerald Theater in St. Paul to bring down the final curtain on Keillor's company. Kevin Kline's Guy Noir, private eye and security guard, attempts to undercut the Axeman and tries to solve the mystery of the Dangerous Woman (Virginia Madsen), whose "hair was the color God had in mind when He said, 'Let there be hair.'" Less a plot than a premise, it allows Altman and Keillor to navigate relationships that pop up, recur and end - like the complex tissue that makes up a company's season, the run of a show or a life.

A Prairie Home Companion (Picturehouse) Starring Garrison Keillor, Meryl Streep, Lindsay Lohan, Lily Tomlin, L.Q. Jones, John C. Reilly, Woody Harrelson, Kevin Kline and Tommy Lee Jones. Directed by Robert Altman. Rated PG-13. Time 105 minutes.

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