If you are going to remake an Oscar-nominated film from a world-class, Oscar-winning director like Susanne Bier, you might as go all in and really remake it. That is what writer-director Bart Freundlich has done with After the Wedding, pulling off a compelling gender switch from the Danish original and casting two world-class actors in the form of his wife, Julianne Moore, and Michelle Williams to make it sing.
The film, which was the opening-night attraction at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, is a strikingly well-acted, at times overly melodramatic story of a complicated connection involving Moore’s husband Oscar (played by Billy Crudup) and the two women. This is one of those movies where the less said about the plot twists and turns, the better. However, when I saw it in Danish and it focused on two men rather than the two women in this remake, it seemed for whatever reason a bit less soapy. Nevertheless, when you have two actresses of the caliber of Moore and Williams you are in very good hands indeed and they both make it credible — which is no easy task. And there isn’t a false moment in either performance.
This movie is sort of an old-fashioned throwback to what used to be called “women’s pictures” in a bygone age. We’ve seen this kind of thing before, but Freundlich has cooked it just right, smartly focusing on the human toll of the story. It will play well with older audiences who are slower to come out to the multiplex.
Williams plays Isabel, the manager of an orphanage in India, who’s mysteriously summoned to New York City to meet with a potential major donor. That person turns out to be busy and obsessed executive Theresa (Moore), who is a driven career person but also married happily to Oscar. They have kids and a seemingly normal life. But nothing in these movies is ever what it really seems, is it? Freundlich slow-builds the story as we get to know each of these characters and wonder what secrets they might unveil. The title indicates a wedding, and that is exactly what provides a centerpiece as Theresa invites this new acquaintance Isabel to attend. I will leave it at that.
In Bier’s 2006 original, the great Mads Mikkelson ran the orphanage, Rolf Lassgard was the executive, and Sidse Babett Knudsen was his wife. They were excellent, and the film received a Best Foreign Language Oscar nomination and did pretty good business on the international art house circuit. The new version, which Sony Pictures Classics releases Friday, is more overtly commercial, and you absolutely can see what attracted Moore and Williams to these strong roles. Both are superb in a movie aimed at smart adult audiences looking to escape the usual summer fare. The explosions in this film are strictly of the human variety.
Moore is on a roll with English-language remakes of foreign films. Following Gloria Bell, the remake of the Chilean drama Gloria, this is her second one this year.
Producers are Moore, Freundlich, Harry Finkel, Joel B. Michaels, Silvio Muraglia. Check out my video review at the link above with scenes from the film.
Do you plan to see After the Wedding? Let us know what you think.
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