Robert Altman’s ensemble comedy covers a sprawling society wedding, one so lavish that the bride and groom are almost an afterthought. She (Amy Stryker), is a pampered nouveau-riche princess still wearing braces on her teeth. He (Desi Arnaz Jr.), is an old-money preppie whose family may be mobbed up. That’s why none of the guests except the relatives come back to the reception at the groom’s family estate, where an army of caterers, wedding planners, and security staffers are unable to prevent disaster. Grandma (Lillian Gish) is upstairs dying, the groom’s uncle (Pat McCormick) is hitting on the bride’s mother (Carol Burnett), and the bride’s sister (Mia Farrow) is announcing her pregnancy — is the groom himself the father?
As in so many other of Altman’s panoramic slice-of-life movies (from Nashville to Gosford Park), the director’s satirical eye sees all and spares no one. By the end, the movie achieves some real poignance, especially in the face of the tragedy that inevitably strikes this doomed enterprise, but not before Altman gets in some rueful chuckles at our vain attempts to impose order upon chaos.
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