- San Bernardino Sun, 22 October 1978
- Altman’s ‘A Wedding’ inspired lunacy
“A Wedding,” rated PG, is currently playing at the Central City Four Theater.
By BERNARD DREW – Gannett News Service
Robert Altman’s “A Wedding” is the frantically enjoyable account of a marriage between a young scion of high (with perhaps a soupcon of low) society and the daughter of a vulgar, redneck nouveau riche and the mayhem which ensues.
As in Altman’s master piece “Nashville,” the panorama covers an inordinately large cast of characters, perhaps a bit too large for us to encompass who and what every person on that screen is or does. There are moments when one might wish to know a little less (or nothing at all) about a character flitting by, and a bit more about some of the major people involved. Right up until the end, there is some fuzziness about a couple of the main characters.
But this is compensated for by the often hilarious vaudeville Altman and his three co-writers John Considine, Patricia Resnick, and Allan Nicholla have concocted for their huge, heterogeneous cast. At times some of the cast seem to be doing a solo turn or scene rather than being part of an integral whole, but I am not going to complain during the current dearth of film comedy, warts and all, “A Wedding” contains moments of inspired lunacy. Altman’s talent is matched by his courage. He has made bad movies but never dull ones.
In “A Wedding,” he maintains the Greek unities of time, place and action. Everything ensues within a 24our period as the wedding commences in church in the morning, while preparations for the reception go on at the groom’s grandmother’s mansion. Then comes the reception itself with all the pandemonium which attends it, lasting through the afternoon, evening and night.
At the outset, grandmother Lillian Gish lies in her bed too ill to attend the wedding but giving last minute instructions to wedding reception coordinator Geraldine Chaplin. Then we see a bit of the wedding ceremony. Half-senile John Cromwell, who has been coaxed out of retirement by friend Gish, is stumbling through the service as the groom, Desi Arnaz, Jr., is becoming one with bride Amy Stryker, who still wears her retainers.
The groom’s mother, Nina Van Pallandt, Gish’s daughter, is a glamorous woman who is married to an Italian of mysterious origin which will be revealed later on. He is portrayed by the superlative Vittorio Gassman. Her sisters are the very regal Dina Merrill, strangely paired with Pat McCormick, who plays an art collector; and Virginia Vestoff, who is conducting an affair with Miss Gish’s black butler, Cedric Scott.
The bride has a younger brother who is an epileptic and an older sister, Mia Farrow, who adds to the confusion of the reception when she announces she is pregnant by the bridegroom, Arnaz.
The most memorable performances are those of Dina Merrill, (in the best thing she has ever done on film), Lillian Gish, John Cromwell, Ruth Nelson as her left wing but still very rich and social sister, Mia Farrow, Geraldlne Chaplin, and Howard Duff. Viveca Lindfors is amusing as a caterer who becomes stoned. You must say this for Robert Altman. He never copies anyone else and he never repeats himself. He’s an original.