January 16, 1995 12:00 PM

Julia Roberts, Tim Robbins, Anouk Aimée, Lauren Bacall, Kim Basinger, Sophia Loren, Marcello Mastroianni

Basinger, as a TV fashion reporter who would be naked without her cue cards, provides the connective thread for Robert Altman’s ragtag send-up of the fashion world.

Editors, reporters, buyers and photographers have descended on Paris for the annual hurly-burly ritual of revering or repudiating the collections. But the drama is not restricted to the runway. There’s the supposed murder of the head of the Fashion Council (Jean-Pierre Cassel), a figure so loathed that everyone from his disdainful, impeccably clad wife (Loren) to his fashion-designing lover (Aimée) is under suspicion. Yet the prime suspect is a mysterious figure (Mastroianni) who skulks about stealing, restyling and wearing other people’s clothes. Elsewhere, three vulpine magazines vie in a most undignified fashion for the services of a top photographer (Stephen Rea), while Aimée’s son (Rupert Everett) secretly sells the family business and carries on an affair with his fashion model wife’s fashion model sister. The movie, which skitters from bedrooms to workrooms to scenes of actual fashion shows, is as busy as a Christian Lacroix ensemble. But all the activity can’t conceal that much about Ready to Wear seems old hat—for example, the jealous sniping between magazine editors Linda Hunt, Sally Kellerman and Tracey Ullman. Indeed, a lot of the activity is pointless—like the subplot concerning the romance between a newspaper sportswriter (Robbins) and an assistant fashion editor (Roberts). Though stylistically similar to Altman’s episodic Nashville, Ready to Wear lacks its pungency and sharp commentary and has none of The Player’s satiric bite. Aimée lends a lovely dignity to all her scenes, and Basinger is hilarious as a repository of inane pronouncements, but Ready to Wear never manages to be more than sew-sew. (R)

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