Robert Altman's READY TO WEAR (PRET-A-PORTER) has the air of some major designer's budget line: while dimly recognizable as the work of a master, it's tailored to middle-class taste, seemingly perfunctory, and, relatively speaking, rather drab and uninspired. What ought to have been a
wickedly delightful film--the conjunction of Altman's usually matchless acerbity with the glittering pretensions of high fashion--emerges as an arid, lifeless farce. It's not especially engaging or perceptive, and, worst of all, it isn't funny.
Like the director's NASHVILLE, READY TO WEAR attempts to encapsulate the experience of a time and place--in this case, the extravagant spring fashion shows in Paris--by interweaving the stories of a couple of dozen characters. Marcello Mastroianni and a remarkably well-preserved Sophia Loren
play former lovers who meet again, to their mutual disappointment, after 40 years; Tim Robbins and Julia Roberts are American journalists who find themselves trapped in the same hotel room without their clothes; Stephen Rea is an ultra-cool photographer who gets his kicks humiliating women; his
targets are powerful fashion editors played by Linda Hunt, Tracey Ullman, and Sally Kellerman.
If nothing else, READY TO WEAR serves to remind us that Altman is no less dependent on solid screenwriting than less celebrated filmmakers. His best movies have always been based on outstanding scripts--e.g., Ring Lardner Jr.'s M*A*S*H, Joan Tewkesbury's NASHVILLE, Michael Tolkin's THE PLAYER.
Here, working with a screenplay credited to himself and Barbara Shulgasser, he's unable to transcend jokes that don't work (e.g., an opening misfire that hinges on the not-very-stunning revelation that there's now a Dior boutique in Red Square); shock effects that don't shock (Danny Aiello as a
closet cross-dresser); and flashes of arbitrary philosophizing (a TV reporter's portentous closing monologue) that are meant to cram a whole wardrobe of loosely stitched ideas into a neat satirical package.
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- Released: 1994
- Rating: R
- Review: Robert Altman's READY TO WEAR (PRET-A-PORTER) has the air of some major designer's budget line: while dimly recognizable as the work of a master, it's tailored to middle-class taste, seemingly perfunctory, and, relatively speaking, rather drab and uninspir… (more)