It begins in India, where Isabel (Michelle Williams) works at an orphanage, teaching the children yoga, and finding a tranquility that keeps her at peace with the world. Her love for the children permeates through each one of them, but when she is summoned to New York to fight for the orphanage to seek a large donation from wealthy business owner Theresa (Julianne Moore), her world is thrown for a loop, and then some. Not because she needs to ask for the money, but because she is invited to the wedding of Theresa's daughter Grace (Abby Quinn), where Isabel discovers that the father of the bride is her ex-boyfriend Oscar (Billy Crudup), and the bride just so happens to be their daughter, whom she thought was given up for adoption twenty-some years ago. It's a shock to the family foundation, a jolt to reality, and something that Isabel will need to confront. There are a lot of questions that need to be answered.
With a plot such as this, it's easy to see that After the Wedding is filled with plenty of dramatics that will keep the audience interested. What director Bart Freundlich (also the real-life husband to Julianne Moore) does well is let his stellar cast do a majority of the heavy lifting. This is an actors piece, where both Michelle Williams and Julianne Moore must dig deep into their emotions and often come out looking like the great actors they are. The major problems, however, is that the script of After the Wedding is not changed enough to exist more than the original Danish version. Not to mention, some moments of emotional dialogue land flat, including intense argumentative scenes between Moore and Crudup, which are never truly earned in the end. The theatrics are all there, it's riveting, but something is just a bit off.
On top of the scripts shortcomings, one of the other frustrating things about After the Wedding is just how good it all looks. The costumes by Arjun Bhasin and the set design by Colleen Rushton is often exquisite, dressing Moore in some of the finest clothes, located at luxury hotels, and a gorgeous mansion fit for a family of eight. That may seem like knit picky to some, but the look of After the Wedding matters. It would be a more difficult dilemma to swallow, packed with family betrayal and lost time, if we didn't know that Grace was living in the lap of luxury, or that Isabel had found herself a place of happiness. Honestly, it is not the worst thing in the world that Grace ended up where she was, but I digress.
Ultimately, After the Wedding works in parts and falters in others. It's an exceptional story, built for great actors, but it's also a fine line between hitting the emotions on the head and going over the top. I'm more interested in checking out the original version now, especially because it might be similar to the case was with Secret in Their Eyes, a movie that was a massive hit for a foreign language film, and not in need for an American re-do. After the Wedding does some good things, but you won't want to dwell on it any longer than you have to. It's a yes from me, but you won't stay in the honeymoon phase for too long.
2 ½ STARS
Written by: Leo Brady
MOVIE: AFTER THE WEDDING
STARRING: MICHELLE WILLIAMS; JULIANNE MOORE; BILLY CRUDUP
DIRECTED BY: BART FREUNDLICH
AMovieGuy.com's RATING: 2 ½ STARS (Out of 4)
I always say that movies can be something that changes your mood, makes you happy, or just puts you in the right mindset. Sometimes we crave for a bit of that soapy drama about families with secrets to tell. I was in the right mood for After the Wedding, a dramatic and emotional film, about a family that is brought together by twists of fate. Director Bart Freundlich (Catch That Kid) bring's his version of Denmark's 2007 Oscar nominated foreign feature, with an all-star cast, and plenty of emotions to keep me engaged. It's well paced, well acted, but also a bit too melodramatic to sustain itself. After the Wedding is a well-intentioned family drama, it just depends on what kind of mood you are in.