American Fable is ambitious, maybe too much so sometimes, but there's an intense pleasure in the boldness of the film's style.
The two families in Robert Altman's “A Wedding” live right there in the closets with their skeletons. They present a cheerful facade to the outer world, of old Lake Forest money on the one hand and new Southern money on the other. But just beneath the surface there are jealousies and greeds and hates, and the random dirty tricks of fate.
Altman plunges gleefully into this wealth of material; there are forty-eight characters in his movie, give or take a few, and by the film's end we know them all. We may not know them well -- at weddings there are always unidentified cousins over in the corner -- but we can place them, and chart the lines of power and passion that run among them. And some of them are drawn as well as Altman has drawn anyone.
That's because “A Wedding” is a lot deeper and more ambitious than we might at first expect. It begins in comedy, it moves into realms of social observation, it descends into personal revelations that are sometimes tragic, sometimes comic, and then it ends in a way that turns everything back upon itself. The more you think about what Altman's done, the more impressive his accomplishment becomes.
“A Wedding” aims to upset our expectations. It takes our society'smost fertile source of cliches and stereotypes -- a society wedding --and then chisels away at it with maniacal and sometimes savage satire.