by Carina Hoskisson
An ensemble movie is kind of like a road trip to Las Vegas. It starts out as a great idea. Then you spend 12 hours inside a Geo Metro with four other people over 6 feet and arrive in Vegas to find that a Podiatrist Convention has filled all available hotel space. By the end of the trip none of your friends are talking, you've run out of money, and you just want to go home. Altman's road trip, Ready-To-Wear, was supposed to be a great idea. Gather an ensemble cast of hot young stars, venerable favorites, character actors, and put them in a farcical comedy that skewers the fashion world. Except that the farce ends up the equivalent of a Geo Metro: it runs far too long on one tank of gas for anyone’s enjoyment.Before we get into the rundown, let me highlight the constant joke that ties the whole film together. Dog poop. Just about everyone I’m about to mention steps in fido’s refuse at least once, if not multiple times. I don’t know about you, but that’s not a running gag, that’s a 2nd grade excuse for a giggle. “What smells?” “Did I step in something?” “Something is on my shoe” “I’m tracking dog shit onto this carpet.” Yes, those are the soliloquy’s that highlight Ready-To-Wear as comedic film genius personified.
"No matter which title you use, boredom ensues"
Prêt-a-porter is a French phrase that means Ready-to-wear (hence the dual titles) the term for the collections that fashion designers present at runway shows several times a year in the glittering fashion capitals of the world. Lots of people come to view the shows. And that’s the plot.
Julia Roberts plays a small town reporter. She’s paired with Tim Robbins as a bigger town reporter. They end up having to share a hotel room due to a silly and somehow unsolvable hotel error not remotely possible in real hospitality management. Non-hilarity ensues. Mostly Robbins and Roberts pretend to have sex while they watch the runway show recaps on TV. Trust me, you’d have more fun cleaning your keyboard than watching the Zero-Chemistry Couple roll around in sheets.
Tracy Ullman is the editor of British Vogue. Sally Kellerman and Linda Hunt play other fashion magazine editors. The editors despise each other until a photographer forces each of them, independently, into a compromising position and takes a picture. Madcap physical comedy supposedly ensues as they try to recover the evidence. Ullman isn’t funny once—that’s how bad Prêt-a-Porter is, Altman and screenwriter Barbara Sulgasser have managed to take a talented comedienne and slowly bake the comedy right out of her.
Another weird sub-plot…Teri Garr and Danny Aiello are lovers and Aiello is a cross dresser. Painful laughter ensues. Lili Taylor shows up. I don’t know if Aiello and Garr are supposed to be funny, inspiring a rally cry for cross dressing, or just more actors in an embarrassing vignette that make you cringe instead of laugh.
There are more than a dozen other vignettes that I could detail for you. But I won’t, I had to watch this movie, you shouldn’t have to. Let me just list for you the people who all show up in this miserable excuse for a movie (and these are just the one’s you’ve heard of): Marcello Mastroianni, Sophia Loren, Stephen Rea, Anouk Aimée, Kim Basinger, Rupert Everett, Rossy de Palma, Jean-Pierre Cassel, Chiara Mastroianni, Georgianna Robertson, Lili Taylor, Ute Lemper, Forest Whitaker, Tom Novembre, Richard E. Grant, Lauren Bacall, Lyle Lovett, Jean Rochefort, Michel Blanc, Sam Robards, Christy Turlington, Denis Lepeut, Harry Belafonte, Thierry Mugler, Cher, Helena Christensen, Sonia Rykiel, Elsa Klensch, Nicola Trussardi, Jean-Paul Gaultier, Christian Lacroix, Issey Miyake, Gianfranco Ferre, Carla Bruni, Naomi Campbell, Björk, David Copperfield, Linda Evangelista, and Claudia Schiffer.
The extraordinary amount of cameos is confusing with a huge ensemble cast. Who is supposed to be ‘himself’ and who is playing a role? You really have no idea—except someone usually says something like “Look, there’s Cher” so the audience will know that it is not a character.
Honestly, if you have to resort to voice-overs explaining which people are appearing as themselves and which are characters there are TOO MANY damn people in your movie.
One of the faux designers in the film premieres a collection. I immediately knew that Vivienne Westwood must have designed the collection. She presented a nearly identical line in 1994. Why mention Westwood? The filmmakers are hiding behind the screen of “Well of course people don’t get it, they don’t know anything about the fashion world.” I know fashion. Did the movie work for me, absolutely not. Does the movie work for people who have only a passing acquaintance with the fashion world? That is an unequivocal 'no.'
One shouldn’t have to be an expert to see a movie like this—Altman made Gosford Park and the audience wasn’t required to have read English murder mysteries before entering the theater. Then again maybe if I was socially involved with my gynecologist I would have appreciated Dr. T & The Women. Maybe not.Ready-To-Wear is a bloated, bruised plus-sized model of a movie. It skips, sputters and runs out of gas. The parts meant to be comical are flatter than matzo bread. The remaining details of the film are time consuming, convoluted, and nonsensical. Self-referential can be terribly amusing. In this film, self-referential is synonymous with over-indulgent smarm. Ready-To-Wear is hollow, painfully un-comical and ultimately boring.
link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=2398&reviewer=44
originally posted: 09/07/03 15:55:43