In remakes of foreign films American directors sometimes copy the source almost to the letter. Other times they update their own version to reflect current issues. In After the Wedding Bart Freundlich and his team make the worthy effort of tweaking the original to bring women to the forefront. But much of the original’s savor is lost in translation.
The remake also features a powerhouse cast, including an under-used Billy Crudup as Theresa’s sculptor husband — but oh what a clunky, at times cringe-worthy affair the film turns out be. In swapping the male leads for two female actors perhaps Freundlich hoped to provide a showcase for Moore (his wife) — hard to beat when it comes to displays of alcoholic angst — and, more generally, create a pair of meaty roles for women past ingenue age, not exactly plentiful in Hollywood. Also, the idea of a high-flying woman entrepreneur harmonizes with celebrations of the current workplace (or its idealized version).
That said, After the Wedding Take Two never finds its emotional rhythm; melodramatic confrontations about betrayals and past choices lurch clunkily along, much as Theresa does after her second martini. That she’s often seen scarfing pills telegraphs a big plot point and betrays a lack of confidence in audiences. As an actress, Moore comes across in most of her roles as an immensely likable person: she’s never been the sort of chameleonic actor who disappears into a character — no matter which role, she is never not Julianne Moore. (The same is true of other notable actors, but here it plays against the film.) Moore’s mogul never rings true; the bossy bitch antics, down to verbally abusing her personal assistant, feel contrived and play against Moore’s niceness. Especially painful to watch (because it’s so actorly) is Abby Quinn in the challenging role of the daughter, called upon to deliver several tiresome weep-a-thons as she absorbs the betrayals of her elders.
Moore’s final waterworks scene ends up making you squirm. In Susanne Bier’s original, Rolf Lassgard, the Danish actor who played the mogul, raged against mortality, and it remains one of cinema’s more powerful arias, rivaling the terrors of Tolstoy’s Ivan Ilyich. Bier offsets the film’s morbid notes with sex — their later-life encounter reignites the embers between Mads Mikkelsen and his youthful love. Instead of the lobster risotto, Freundlich’s wedding blowout could have done with a serving of Casanova’s oysters. Continue reading…