The American wedding is nothing if not profoundly romantic, pure magical fantasy. And, whatever the simplicity or exorbitance it is theatre.
No matter what you might think or feel about the movies of Robert Altman, there is no denying he has a knack for finding extremely dramatic material to work with. In this case, he has chosen to make a satirical swipe at one of America's most popular rituals the wedding. Although the ceremony occurs in a church and looks perfectly natural at the outset, it soon descends into a comedy of errors. The senile bishop bumbles the words, and the camera crew filming the ritual for the family from behind some plants makes too much noise.
Once the celebration moves to the groom's palatial home, the guise of conviviality breaks down. Substituted in its place is a nonstop charade of social competition, unabashed greed, unbridled lust, and utter confusion.
The bride (Amy Stryker) turns out to be an immature girl lost in the crowd on her own special day. The groom (Desi Arnaz, Jr.) is a rich punk with a libido too large for his own good. The bride's father (Paul Dooley), a trucking entrepreneur who has recently become rich, remains devoted to his unmarried daughter (Mia Farrow). His wife (Carol Burnett) tires to cope with the groom's uncle (Pat McCormick) who claims to be madly in love with her. The groom's mother (Nina Van Pallandt) only manages to make it through the day after she is given her drug fix by the family doctor (Howard Duff). And both he and the groom's father (Vittorio Gassman) are trying to keep a secret from everyone else the groom's grandmother (Lillian Gish) has died of a heart attack in her bedroom while the festivities were going on downstairs.
One of the most interesting of Altman's many observations about the wedding ritual is that it has been taken away from families and put into the hands of professionals. With the reception the responsibility of the wedding coordinator (Geraldine Chaplin), the cateress (Viveca Lindfors), and the chief of security operations (John Considine), the whole affair takes on an oddly depersonalized nature. Despite this keen insight, Altman's film falls apart. he simply can't control his need to dump all over everyone present. The result is a sad exercise in caricature, which leaves us wondering whether Altman himself has been stigmatized by society's mania for depersonalizing everything.