After The Wedding
Julianne Moore, Michelle Williams, Billy Crudup, Abby Quinn
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…fascinating and thought provoking.
Writer/director Bart Freundlich has long marched to the beat of his own drum, crafting a mix of quirky, character based comedies like The Rebound and Trust The Man and heavier dramas like The Myth Of Fingerprints and Wolves. He only veers from singular creator status, it seems, to remake Danish films, first with 2004’s family friendly Catch That Kid (cribbed from the homeland smash hit Klatretøsen) and now with his own take on Susanne Bier’s highly acclaimed 2006 drama, After The Wedding. As with most contemporary remakes, this new version offers up the requisite gender flip, but this time it’s one which actually serves to embolden the film’s themes, as well as significantly ramping up the female roles. In fact, this is a gender flip that many would perhaps have preferred not to see…which cannily serves to make After The Wedding all the more fascinating and thought provoking.
American émigré Isabel (Michelle Williams) runs an orphanage in India, where she has created a rich and fulfilling life for herself, helping the nation’s many impoverished children and forming a strong bond with them. Always strapped for cash, Isabel heads to New York City to meet with wealthy self-made media bigshot Theresa (Julianne Moore), who might just be the major benefactor that the orphanage desperately needs. A whirlwind of manic energy, the abrasive Theresa is in the middle of planning the wedding of her daughter, Grace (Abby Quinn), which Isabel surprisingly finds herself drawn into. But amidst the nuptials, a surprising shared history is revealed between the two women, along with Theresa’s artist husband, Oscar (Billy Crudup).
With a cast of truly, deeply, profoundly flawed characters (who can veer from sympathetic to unlikeable within a single scene…a credit to Freundlich’s uncompromising adaptation of Bier’s script), After The Wedding is a real performance piece, with all of the players in top form. But the untouchable Julianne Moore (Freundlich’s off-screen wife), not surprisingly, is the star of the show, offering up another tour de force, sliding from strident ice queen to emotional mess with dexterous brilliance. She is simply superb, and while the film doesn’t reach her levels of excellence (pacing issues hurt, and some of the plot twists smack a little too hard), it gets close enough, bravely exploring the big issues of family, responsibility, class division, white privilege, and mortality.