Garrison Keillor, Meryl Streep, and Lindsay Lohan in A Prairie Home CompanionA PRAIRIE HOME COMPANION

One of the many glories of Robert Altman is that he never pretends to know everything there is to know about the characters in his movies, and doesn't expect his audiences to, either. In an Altman film, you may think you have someone all figured out, until a later scene proves that you haven't begun to understand what makes them tick; Altman is fascinated with the dichotomy between characters' public and private faces. (It makes perfect sense that he eventually filmed a murder mystery.) It sometimes seems that there's not much going on in an Altman movie, and audiences could easily assume the same about the director's latest, A Prairie Home Companion. But if you're as enthralled with character as the director is, and with the drama of actors gradually revealing character, his ambling, "plotless" films can be sheer bliss.