After The Wedding | Bart Freundlich | August 9, 2019
Directed by Bart Freundlich, After the Wedding is a remake of the 2006 Susanne Bier-directed Danish film of the same name starring Mads Mikkelsen and Rolf Lassgard. While the original Danish version featured two male leads, Freundlich’s version (which he wrote himself) swaps both key roles from men to women, inserting Michelle Williams and Julianne Moore in place of Mikkelsen and Lassgard.
Isabel (Williams) is the co-founder of an orphanage in Kolkata, India, and she’s very passionate about the job. She takes good care of the many kids at the orphanage, such as eight-year-old Jai (Vir Pachisia) who becomes like a son to her. To say the least, they’re short on funds and could be doing better if they had more money. A potential wealthy donor offers to possibly save the day but insists that Isabel – and only Isabel – makes the journey to New York to discuss this potential saving grace donation. Isabel doesn’t know why she needs to defend the need to raise money for such a good cause but makes the journey in the name of the cause.
It turns out that the wealthy individual who requested this meeting is a woman named Theresa (Moore; Gloria Bell), who is stern but seems very much willing to provide the orphanage with the financial means to succeed. Isabel is wary of what ulterior motives may be behind the donation and even more so perplexed at Theresa’s invitation to the wedding of her daughter Grace (Abby Quinn), which is only a few days away. The ceremony is held at Theresa’ lavish home and upon arrival, Isabel sees a familiar face – Theresa’s husband Oscar (Billy Crudup). She can’t believe her eyes, and it’s clear these two used to be an item but it becomes clear that something else rooted in their past that has resurfaced.
There are many twists and turns involved in the story, but – at least in my case – I saw them telegraphed a mile away and they didn’t land with the emotional oomph that was most certainly intended. For those who are familiar with Bier’s version, there isn’t much reason to dip back into this well, other than to see great actors such as Williams, Moore, and Crudup match up. The decision to swap the genders of the leading roles gives the actors a chance to shine but it isn’t enough to warrant this remake.
The main issue is that the emotional climax doesn’t completely land in a strong enough fashion to prevent it from nearing the borderline soapy territory that it ultimately nears towards the end. The performances from the leading trio and the capable Quinn are enough to warrant a viewing, but the actors aren’t enough to take this material and deliver it with the dramatic heft that it deserves.