Bart Freundlich (director)
1h 52mins (length)
31 October 2019 (released)
06 November 2019
Any film with a wedding as its key setting is always going to have plenty of drama.
This is most definitely the case with new movie After the Wedding, which features Hollywood powerhouses Michelle Williams and Julianne Moore, and is directed by Moore's filmmaker husband Bart Freundlich.
A remake of Susanne Bier's 2006 critically acclaimed Danish-Swedish movie of the same name, Freundlich does stick closely to the original's narrative, though the main change is that he switches the genders of the main characters.
The plot kicks off in Kolkata, India where the audience meets orphanage manager Isabel, as played by Williams, as she is invited to travel to New York City to meet a potential benefactor, Theresa Young, as portrayed by Moore.
Despite her frustration at having to travel back to the U.S., Isabel feels obliged to go back to the Big Apple and meets with the wealthy Theresa, who convinces her to stay in town a bit longer to discuss the charity.
Of course, she ends up insisting Isabel attends the nuptials of her daughter Grace (Abby Quinn), who is marrying the nice but safe choice of Jonathan (Alex Esola) in an extravagant ceremony the following day.
Flustered by her surroundings and the spontaneous invite, Isabel shows up to the wedding late, and as she rushes into the event, exchanges a telling glance with father-of-the-bride Oscar Carlson (Billy Crudup) - indicating they have met before.
Accordingly, their exchanges lead to the unravelling of a string of secrets, some obvious and others much more intriguing, but all of which are best reserved for the viewer.
Moore embraces the part of successful businesswoman Theresa, who is constantly trying to make it appear as if running a company and parenting three children is easy, as well as serve as an unshakable figure of authority.
A scene in which she orders drinks and dinner on behalf of Isabel is rather brilliant, as are some of the tenser exchanges between the pair, with Theresa attempting to use money as means of controlling her new associate, inevitably making Isabel resentful of her as she realises she needs funding to continue her work in her adopted home.
Williams injects lots of emotion and sincerity into her role, and it's impossible not to sympathise with her situation as her character is dragged into Theresa's mess. Crudup delivers a subtle performance as a bystander to the whole scenario.
Freundlich certainly delves into some important themes, including what it means to be a mother, dysfunctional families, abandonment, and the rich/poor divide.
Yet, the major flaw in the story is the failure to explore Isabel's life in India further, with the yellow-filtered visits to the orphanage diminished in favour of a focus on an American family unit epitomising white privilege.
Some of the concluding sequences veer into melodrama too, and while the central cast certainly commits, the various plot threads don't quite wind together to deliver the emotional punch they should have.