AFTER THE WEDDING – movie review

Sony Pictures Classics
Reviewed for & linked from Rotten Tomatoes by: Harvey Karten
Director: Bart Freundlich
Screenwriter: Bart Freundlich based on “After the Wedding” (2006) written by Anders Thomas Jensen and directed by Susanne Bier
Cast: Michelle Williams, Julianne Moore, Billy Crudup, Abby Quinn
Screened at: Sony, NYC, 7/16/19
Opens: August 9, 2019

After the Wedding Movie Poster

It’s not as though everything that takes place here occurs after the wedding. The cast has a great deal of information to load in to set us up for some plot twists—reversals that occur so frequently that you may be kept on the edge of your chair, wondering what terrible secrets are going to go down next. This is a remake of the Danish movie of the same name, though in Copenhagen they called it “Efter bryllupper,” directed by a woman, Susanne Bier, who made two men the center of her universe. This time Bart Freundlich shows that he knows how to write and direct women, placing two of the greats in the leading roles. In fact were it not for the talent and charisma of Michelle Williams and Julianne Moore and Julio Macat’s stunning photography in India, you might be tempted to write this off as an expensive weepy, a soap, one whose wheels you can see moving, carrying you to a final resolution.

Whereas the Danish version takes place in Mumbai, this one opens in Calcutta where Isabel (Michelle Williams) is an American Mother Teresa by helping to run an orphanage, having adopted eight-year-old Jai (Vir Pachisia) who becomes teacher’s pet and who will eventually be asked whether he wants to move to New York. Isabel’s orphanage is regularly short of money, so miraculously she hears that Theresa (Julianne Moore), a media executive who built her company from scratch, wants to donate two million dollars to the Calcutta institution. Big catch, without which, no movie: Theresa insists that Isabel leave Calcutta to be interviewed in person in New York, which Isabel is reluctant to do since she is so connected to her do-good role in the East. But money talks, Isabel confers with Theresa—who is not yet committal, and is invited to the wedding of Theresa’s daughter Grace (Abby Quinn) to Jonathan (Alex Esola). At the wedding, she spots Oscar (Billy Crudup), who brought Grace up, a single father until he married Theresa, and boom. Isabel is stunned. We know that something’s up, and any attempt to go into detail on their history would be a spoiler.

The two women are opposites in temperament. Theresa is jubilant, a demanding executive who can be brittle especially when chewing out her personal assistant. We are introduced to her as she sings along lustily in her car to Lady Gaga’s “Edge of Glory.” Isabel is reticent, taking in the scenery, a listener rather than a big talker who nonetheless shows visible disappointment having to leave her profession in India, downcast once again when she finds out that the two million is not necessarily a done deal.

“After the Wedding” is theatrical, centering on some major ethical questions regarding, adoption, marital problems affecting the young bride and groom just weeks after the ceremony, the nature and importance of one giant white lie, the importance of finding an identity in what you do for work and must decide whether to compromise by giving up what you love in exchange for a greater return.

Production values are spot-on; a gorgeous house in suburban New York for the Theresa and Oscar, a sumptuous outdoor wedding presided over by a monk (Hank H. Kim), shots of two tall temples in India. Whether you prefer the Danish version to the Hollywood is a matter of opinion, so after you see the current version you can shell out $3.99 to Amazon Prime and watch Mads Mikkelsen in the Danish.

110 minutes. © 2019 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online

Story – C-
Acting – B+
Technical – B+
Overall – B-