A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this drama explores the idea of death, featuring a metaphorical figure (a woman in a white raincoat who is both an "angel of death" and a dead woman brought to temporary life). One character writes poems about suicide, another dies backstage, asleep in a chair, and others respond with tears on discovering his body (the dead man had arranged for a sexual interlude). The on-stage radio show includes bawdy jokes about sex (mostly using euphemisms) and minor quarrelling between former lovers and sisters. Characters smoke and drink liquor. A cowboy performer holds a prop gun. Mild language (one s-word, some uses of "hell" and "damn"), including sexual and body parts references.
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What's the story?
In A PRAIRIE HOME COMPANION, Lola (Lindsay Lohan) spends most of her time behind the scenes at her mom Yolanda's (Meryl Streep) radio show, which is fashioned after the show that screenwriter and costar Garrison Keillor has been performing for 32 years. As her mother and Aunt Rhonda (Lily Tomlin) prepare to go onstage as the singing Johnson Sisters, the angst-ridden teen writes dark poems. Surrounded by adults, wants to be heard and to disappear, and she's distracted by a mysterious family history. The crew has just learned that the radio station has been sold and the show cancelled. For their last show, the regulars perform, quarrel, and make up. Security guard, Guy Noir (Kevin Kline), spots an intruder, a Dangerous Woman (Virginia Madsen), who wanders through the theater, unnerving Guy and reminding you that death is ever imminent. As if to stave it off, the performers stick to their routines, singing old songs, cracking old jokes, remembering old times. With Yolanda watching from offstage, Lola makes her first public performance on the show's last night. And in this moment, she emerges from the dressing room to reveal old-fashioned talent and scrappy ingenuity.
Is it any good?
Like other Robert Altman movies, A Prairie Home Companion is meandering and provocative, a contemplation of familial and romantic relationships that leads to small revelations. It is in Lola that the film locates something like a conventional narrative, for better and worse.
Lola's transformation is heartening. By film's end, Lola's transformed yet again, resembling a corporate sort herself, in a snappy suit and wielding a cell phone with headset, swooping through town to offer her mother advice on looking after her "assets." It's a brief moment, a lively and broadly comic coda. It's something else as well, an acknowledgment rather than an out-of-hand condemnation of time's toll. It's possibility.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the film's contemplation of death, as an inevitable transition (characters' deaths as well as the passing of the radio show). How does Lola's initial interest in suicide reflect her own adolescent worries about expectations, as well as her family's knotty emotional history? How does she reconcile with her nervous, distracted mother through their shared love of music and desire for connection?
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