Wedding, A (1978): Robert Altman’s Ensemble Comedy

Robert Altman directed A Wedding, comedy driven by a large ensemble that’s intergenerational and international, including Desi Arnaz, Jr., Carol Burnett, Paul Dooley, Vittorio Gassman, Mia Farrow, Lillian Gish, Geraldine Chaplin, Howard Duff, Nina Van Pallandt, Amy Stryker, and Pat McCormick.

Grade: C (** out of *****)

A Wedding
A Wedding poster.jpg

Theatrical release poster

Set in a single day. the story is told in typical Altman style, with multiple plots, blurring images, and overlapping dialogue.

The lavish wedding merges a nouveau riche Southern family (Louisville, Kentucky) with an established if tarnished wealthy Chicago family, which may be connected to organized crime.

tarnished Midwestern aristocracy and new, uncouth Southern wealth,

Dino Corelli marries Muffin Brenner and attends the reception at the Corelli mansion. Bedridden matriarch Nettie Sloan, mother of Dino’s mother Regina Sloan Corelli, is being tended by disreputable Dr. Jules Meecham.

While speaking with wedding planner Rita Billingsley, Nettie suddenly dies. Meecham informs Dino’s father, Luigi Corelli, but Luigi is unable to tell his wife Regina because she is mentally unstable. Nettie’s corpse remains in bed during the reception, while attendees visit her room not realizing she’s dead. By the time bossy daughter Toni finds out and plans a dramatic announcement, other family members are neither surprised or nor too upset.

The serio comedy, while trying to offer poignant observations about social class barriers and manners, ends up looking down and/or ridiculing at most of the character, regardless of their position.  The movie walks a fine and fragile line between condescension and sheer contempt.

One of the director’s most mean-spirited satires, A Wedding disappointed even Altman’s fans, struggling to relate to the events and persona on screen.

This time around, Altman’s famously loose, unstructured style resulted in a messy comedy, with few poignantly comic moments, but many more stale jokes.

Credits:

Produced, directed by Robert Altman
Written by John Considine, Allan F. Nicholls, Patricia Resnick, Altman
Cinematography Charles Rosher
Edited by Tony Lombardo

Production company: Lion’s Gate Films, Inc.

Distributed by 20th Century Fox

Release date: August 29, 1978

Running time: 125 minutes