By Mark Saldana
Rating: 3 (Out of 4 Stars)
Based on Suzanne Bier’s Danish film Efter brylluppet, After the Wedding has plenty of stong, compelling material, but its execution and presentation gets bogged down with indulgent melodrama and a third act and epilogue that play out rather flatly. I suppose an argument could be made that this movie us yet another example of an unnecessary English language remake, but I cannot make this declaration. Considering that I have not seen the original iteration of this story, I can only judge this version alone on its own laurels and flaws. I can only definitively say that this film is moderately compelling at times, but ultimately mediocre.
Michelle Williams stars as Isabel, a co-founder of an orphanage in Calcutta. The shelter for impoverished and abandoned children is struggling to stay open, though. Desperate to keep her home alive and well, Isabel reluctantly accepts a funding offer from a wealthy benefactor in New York. In order to finalize the deal, she must travel to New York to meet with her. Julianne Moore stars as Theresa Young, the millionaire who wishes to make a most generous donation to keep the orphanage open.
However, as she is busy preparing for her daughter’s upcoming wedding, Theresa insists on postponing the deal until afterward. In the meantime, she extends an invitation to Isabel to join in the festivities. When she arrives to the wedding, Isabel soon discovers that Theresa’s husband and father of the bride, Oscar (Billy Crudup), is an ex-boyfriend from a relationship that ended badly. As the two reacquaint, things get rather uncomfortable and awkward. In the days that follow, when the funding deal finally goes down, shocking secrets get revealed that further complicate the funding agreements.
Written and directed by Bart Freundlich, based on the story/screenplay by Suzanne Bier and Anders Thomas Jensen, this American version of After the Wedding offers its audience soap opera material which could have been elevated by stronger writing and direction. However, it just never rises above the melodrama. From what I have read, the original film manages to accomplish this feat which proves that the potential for a enthralling film was there, but was simply executed weakly. To be fair though, the movie does actually have some tense and compelling moments, but when all if its cards are revealed, that’s when the movie folds.
The film does feature some great acting from the talented cast, but even some scenes lay on the dramatics rather thickly. Michelle Williams gives a tense and emotionally moving performance as the humble, soft-spoken, but intelligent Isabel. She gives what is actually the most nuanced and impressive turn of the movie. Billy Crudup also gives an emotionally charged performance as Oscar, a man tormented by his troubled past and his uncertain future. Julianne Moore, through most of the film, performs superbly, but totally goes too “bawlistic” in one important scene. This is quite surprising given that Moore is such a gifted actor, but perhaps her husband/director Bart Freundlich didn’t know how to coach her for that scene.
Either way, though I like this movie overall, I feel that Freundlich was the wrong filmmaker to helm this drama. Even though I have given this movie a generous 3 star rating, I cannot highly recommend it for theatrical viewing. This one is better suited for the home. Yet at the same time, it probably would be a better idea to seek out the original Danish version. I plan to do so in the near future.