Robert Altman stunningly interweaves 22 characters and nine Raymond Carver short stories -- relocating the settings from Carver's Northwest to Los Angeles during a spraying of malathion brought on by a Medfly epidemic. Altman intercuts… More Robert Altman stunningly interweaves 22 characters and nine Raymond Carver short stories -- relocating the settings from Carver's Northwest to Los Angeles during a spraying of malathion brought on by a Medfly epidemic. Altman intercuts tales of disconnection and emotional emptiness. The stories concern variations upon the theme of Los Angeles angst --a happily married couple, Ann (Andie MacDowell) and Howard Finnigan (Bruce Davison) have to deal with the deep emotions felt when their child is struck by a car before his birthday and lapses into a coma, while the baker (Lyle Lovett) of their child's neglected birthday cake sinks into a rage and torments them in their grief. Three men (Fred Ward, Buck Henry and Huey Lewis) leave on a much anticipated fishing trip, only to discover the drowned body of a nude woman floating in the river and decide to finish their fishing trip and ignore the corpse. A Los Angeles cop (Tim Robbins) uses his badge as an excuse to cheat on his wife (Madeleine Stowe). A pool cleaner (Chris Penn) resents his wife (Jennifer Jason Leigh) for her part-time job as a phone sex performer. A waitress (Lily Tomlin) is devoted to her limousine driver husband (Tom Waits), who is loving and concerned as long as he is sober. An irate husband (Peter Gallagher) decides to divide up his estranged wife's property in a unique way. A lonely woman (Lori Singer) who's a successful cellist wants to form a connection with her alcoholic mother (Annie Ross), a local jazz singer. A couple (Fred Ward and Anne Archer) is invited to dinner for the first time with two embittered spouses (Matthew Modine and Julianne Moore). Altman weaves the characters into an interconnected tapestry that exposes the shallow lives of this self-centered group of Californians.
Consensus: Robert Altman's ensemble drama deftly integrates its disparate characters and episodes into a funny, poignant, emotionally satisfying whole.