This is another of Robert Altman’s trademark movies with large casts and no real plot, as such. By that I mean, there is a terrific amount of incident, but it doesn’t really move forward toward a narrative goal. This is fine with me, but I know it’s not for everybody. I’d rate this one as not as good as Nashville or Gosford Park, but better than HealtH. There aren’t quite as many big names as there were in those first two, but there is Carol Burnett, Geraldine Chaplin, Mia Farrow (who speaks only one line), and Howard Duff. There is also Paul Dooley, a seriously underrated performer who I’ve liked since I saw him in Breaking Away.
The film originated as a joke. As he was filming 3 Women someone asked Altman what his next project would be. He said he was going to film a wedding. The more he thought about it, the better he liked the idea. So he got a script and started shooting in a huge mansion in Chicago. There are seven or eight story lines all happening at once, and most of them are pretty funny. Even the fact that the grandmother of one side of the family (Lillian Gish) dies about ten minutes into the movie. Not wanting to throw a wet blanket over the reception, the doctor (Howard Duff) decides not to tell anyone. Altman has said that at every wedding he ever attended there was a disaster of some sort, and this one has several, beyond the big one of Grandma kicking the bucket. Almost no guests show up because the son of the wealthy family is marrying the daughter of a truck driver. Many secrets are revealed, and as usual, all the actors have a gay old time improvising around the script they were given. I recommend it.