- Movie Rating -

A Wedding (1978)

| September 23, 1978

The problem with being a maverick, experimental filmmaker is that sometimes the experiment fails.  I have always been a great admirer of the films of Robert Altman’s work because his films are distinctly his, they don’t walk or talk like anyone else’s work.  He’s made such influential films in his career that when he made a bad one, he seemed to fall harder than your average filmmaker, and the film itself is even harder to bear.

That’s the case with A Wedding, a shapeless, meandering comedy that would like to tweak the nose of the population of a nuevo riche society wedding in much the same way that MASH punctured the pomposity of the military.  The only problem is, it’s doesn’t work as comedy or satire.

Altman assembles forty-eight characters for the wedding of Dino (Desi Arnez, Jr.) and Muffy (Amy Stryker) which seems to go well enough, until the families gather at the palatial estate of the groom’s father where everything falls apart physically, socially and emotionally. 

Among the guest are:
• The bride’s mother Tulip (Carol Burnett) who begins an awkward affair with a member of the groom’s family. 
• Her husband Snooks (Paul Dooley), an ill-tempered, blue-collar grump who is forever griping and sniping at every facet of the proceedings. 
• Their daughter Buffy (Mia Farrow) who announces her pregnancy at the hands of the groom.  Nettie (Lilian Gish), the groom’s grandmother who exits the festivities when she drops dead in the upstairs bedroom.
• Rita (Geraldine Chaplin), the wedding coordinator who orchestrates the reception like it was a holy ritual.
• Mac (Pat McCormick) who falls helplessly in love with Tulip. 
• Wilson, who was Dino’s roommate. 
• Jules, the family doctor, whose specialty is groping the ladies at the reception. 
• Bishop Martin (John Cromwell, father of James) the aged and forgetful officiate. 

Also around but with little to do are Lauren Hutton, Dennis Franz, Tim Thomerson, Dennis Christopher, Bert Remsen, Pam Dawber and Viveca Lindfors. 

I have no idea what Altman thinks about these characters.  They’re all a bunch of fops, given a single quirk but nothing resembling humanity.  They’re mean to each other and the movie has a mean-spirited attitude toward them.  They do buffoonish things all in the name of comedy, which would not be such a problem if I were laughing, but for the most part I just sat there bored.

If this is a comedy, I’m not laughing.  If it is satire, I have no idea what it is trying to say.  Is Altman puncturing the uber rich?  If he is, it doesn’t show up in this movie.  There’s just a lot of bumping around and rude behavior, but to what end?  This movie is long, slow and very boring.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(1978) View IMDB Filed in: Comedy