“AFTER THE WEDDING”: Uphill battle

My rating: C+ (Opens Aug. 30 at the Barrywoods, Town Center and Glenwood Arts) 110 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13

Published August 29, 2019 by Robert W. Butler at Butler’s Cinema Scene

“After the Wedding” offers the spectacle of fine performances in an uphill battle against melodramatic drek.

Written and directed by Bart Freundlich and based on the 2006  Danish film of the same name (part of the experimental Dogme 95 movement that eschewed studio filming and post-production dubbing…not even a musical score), this remake’s main claim to fame is that it changes the sex of the main characters.

Isabel (Michelle Williams) lives and works in India where she is devoting her life to that country’s countless orphans.  When word arrives that an American benefactor wants to give her operations millions of dollars, Isabel is both excited and suspicious.  Her charity desperately needs the money, but it will require a trip to New York City for a series of interviews — and Isabel is loathe to leave her young charges.

But it’s a deal too good to pass up, which is how she finds herself sitting across the table from Theresa (Julianne Moore), the fabulously successful owner and operator of a Manhattan media placement company.

Isabel arrives with tons of statistics about child prostitution in India and the country’s armies of abandoned children, but Theresa is distracted. Her daughter is getting married in a day or two and she’s preoccupied with last-minute decisions about the lavish soiree on the family’s posh Long Island estate.

Sorry, Theresa says.  Can’t concentrate on Indian orphans right now. Come to the wedding…we’ll talk on Monday.

Then things get seriously weird. In the middle of the nuptials Isabel realizes that the father of the bride, Theresa’s husband, is none other than her old lover Oscar (Billy Crudup), now a successful sculptor. Is this whole philanthropic thing just a ruse so that  Theresa can wreak some sort of jealousy-fuelled vengeance?

Actually, no. The truth is more benign…but also pretty improbable.

It all has something to do with Isabel’s long-ago pregnancy, the genetic origins of the bride (Abby Quinn) and Theresa’s latest medical checkup.

To say more would be unfair to filmgoers who want to discover the film’s tear-stained secrets on their own.

In the process “After the Wedding” goes from creepy/troubling to tear-jerking bathos.

Thing is, the acting — especially from Williams and Moore (aka Mrs. Bart Freundlich) — is vastly better than the material deserves.

Moore is particularly good at presenting Theresa as a woman who is outwardly “nice” but harbors what appears to be a seriously dark streak. Meanwhile Williams nails it as a woman who discovers that in order to continue doing good, she’ll have to give up her main joy in life.

| Robert W. Butler

Read the original review and more reviews at Butler’s Cinema Scene

Posted in

Leave a Comment

Robert W. Butler for 41 years reviewed films for the Kansas City Star. In May 2011 he was downsized.

He couldn’t take the hint.

OKAY, so here’s the deal. I write mostly about movies. One good thing about no longer writing for the paper is that I’m free to ignore the big dumb Hollywood turkeys that don’t interest me. So don’t expect every blessed release to be written about here. Many films aren’t worth the effort. Besides, at my age it’s not the $8. It’s the two hours.

UPDATE: OCTOBER, 2014: Well, here’s an interesting twist. The Star wants me back as a freelance film reviewer!!! Apparently enough time has passed that they cannot be accused of firing me so that they can rehire me at a fraction of my original pay (I gather the federal government frowns upon that practice.) So from now on I will probably be reviewing a movie a week for the newspaper.