After the Wedding (12A) | Close-Up Film Review

Dir. Bart Freundlich, US, 2019, 112 mins

Cast:  Michelle Williams, Julianne Moore, Billy Crudup, Abby Quinn

Review by Carol Allen

After the Wedding is adapted by director Bart Freundlich from the 2006 film of the same name by Danish director Susanne Bier.  But with one important difference in that the two leading roles, originally male, have been changed to female. 

The opening of the film intrigues. Isabelle (Michelle Willliams) has devoted her life to running an orphanage in Kolkata, India.  The orphanage is chronically short of funds, so it is good news when she is contacted by a wealthy potential benefactor in New York.  But Isabelle is not best pleased when the benefactor, wealthy media billionairess Theresa Young (Julianne Moore,) insists she come to New York to discuss the donation.  Isabelle is put up in an expensive hotel, then welcomed to Theresa’s lush country estate, where she lives with her artist husband Oscar (Billy Crudup) and their three daughters.  Theresa even insists on inviting Isabelle to her daughter Grace’s wedding, which is taking place the following day.  So when are they going to get round to discussing the donation?

As the title indicates the real action is going to take place after the wedding.  To give away the big secret which reveals the connection between Isabelle, Theresa and Oscar would be a mega spoiler.   However the nature of it is such that the director’s decision to change the gender of the orphanage manager and the benefactor from male to female does present a problem.  It must have seemed a good idea in today’s more equal opportunity climate but it actually makes the story a little hard to believe in, in that Isabelle’s reaction to the revelation, in view of the decision she made in the past, doesn’t really convince. This also has a knock on effect when we come to the further developments of the story, including the response of Theresa and Oscar’s eldest daughter Grace (Abby Quinn), the bride of the aforesaid wedding event.  She is after all a young adult old enough to get married, having enjoyed an idyllic childhood, much cherished by her parents.   But as more and more skeletons pop out of the closet, she changes somewhat inexplicably from loving daughter into spoiled and ungrateful brat.

Williams as Isabelle comes over as rather po faced and priggish when faced with the ostentatiously luxurious surroundings she is thrust into, as she defiantly hangs onto her simple life garb of bare feet and shawl.  Her reaction is though perhaps understandable as she is so out of her comfort zone.  The strength of the relationship between Crudup and Moore is convincingly drawn and we are almost mesmerised as we discover one secret after another after that wedding.

The treatment of the story veers at times dangerously close to soap opera and its obsession with the details of Theresa’s extravagant lifestyle, rather than making a point about the success of a woman in what was once a male province, becomes almost distasteful.  The film is though very well acted, particularly by Crudup and Moore, the latter of whom is particularly moving and impressive in her climactic scene towards the end of the film, when we get the final revelation.