Pret-A-Porter Review

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A series of vignettes revolving around the fashion world.


As the credits role at the beginning of Robert Altman's latest opus, you can't help but feel excited - and not just because of the triumphs of The Player and Short Cuts. The credits list is merely a taste of the talent on offer - add Danny Aiello, Stephen Rea, Rupert Everett, Anouk Aimee, Tracey Ullman, Richard E. Grant, Forest Whitaker, Marcello Mastroianni etc. etc. and you're looking at the cream of Hollywood.

Within minutes, however, you know they've all made a hideous mistake. Desperate not to be left out of what could have been The Player Part II, they must have inked their deals without reading the script. Big mistake.

You could describe this movie as a satirical comedy, except that the comedy is sodden and the satire toothless. People stepping in dog turd jokes! Chinese people opining that all whities look alike jokes (first conceived circa 1934)! More people stepping in dog turd jokes! And that's the comedy over with. As for the satire, it never really bites - almost as if Altman never really had anything to say in the first place. Surely fashion types make the Hollywood community look like a bunch of selfless nurses toiling in some refugee camp, the ripest of ripe targets for a good old kicking. Not so, apparently.

Instead we descend into a series of ever-more-tedious vignettes involving Tim Robbins and Julia Roberts shagging non-stop in a hotel, the editors of various fashion magazines being used and abused by photographer du jour Stephen Rea, Teri Garr shopping for Dior frocks that end up adorning Aiello, the meeting again after years apart of Loren and Mastroianni, a minor murder conspiracy thingie, and so on. Cohesion goes out of the window, comedy never arrived in the first place, and the only real insight is into the foibles of the media, which is a subject already done to death by any number of movies from Ace In The Hole to Natural Born Killers.

A huge disappointment and major missed opportunity, Pret-A-Porter's biggest problem is its flaccid inability to really question what the hell the fashion business is all about, and whether it has anything meaningful to offer after all. Indeed, the final "statement" involving a collection of painfully thin women modelling nothing but their birthday suits to universal acclaim is as profound as it gets. Which isn't very profound at all when you think about it.

Disappointing offering from Altman in this comedic satire without many laughs, or much bite.