MOVIE OF THE WEEK August 23, 2019: AFTER THE WEDDING

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motw logo 1-35Boasting powerful star performances by Michelle Williams and Julianne Moore and a story with big, emotional twists, Bart Freundlich’s After the Wedding is a gender-swapped remake of Susanne Bier‘s same-named 2006 Danish drama. The film is a thought-provoking look at life choices, legacy, and motherhood that will stick with you after the credits roll.
 
 
Williams stars as Isabel, the director of an orphanage in India who’s summarily summoned to Manhattan to meet with a potential big-bucks donor: entrepreneur Theresa Young (Moore). Eager to secure Theresa’s millions and get back to the kids who need her, Isabel is irritated when Theresa draws their discussions out and demands Isabel’s presence at Theresa’s daughter’s imminent wedding. It quickly becomes apparent that there’s much more going on than Isabel realized — but to say anything else would be to spoil the story.

“After the Wedding” boasts many talented actors, but Williams and Moore are the two powerhouses here, and they do excellent work. Williams’ Isabel initially gives the impression of being almost saintly (and the opening scenes do verge a bit on white savior territory), but as she comes up against obstacles and revelations, she reacts in thoroughly human ways. And Moore is both strong and fragile as Theresa, who is clearly used to getting what she wants and can’t bear to think that anything is beyond her control.

Freundlich — who adapted the screenplay from Bier’s original script and, incidentally, is married to Moore — directs his stars with affection and compassion. And by making the main characters women instead of men, he infuses the story with the kind of mama-bear instinct for love and protection that gives After the Wedding‘s most emotional scenes their memorable impact. — Betsy Bozdech

Team #MOTW’s comments:

MaryAnn Johanson I haven’t seen the original 2006 Danish film this is based on (though I must, because it’s cowritten and directed by Susanne Bier, whose work I adore), but I suspect that this remake is an example of how flipping the genders of the two central characters so that they’re women radically changes everything a film is about. Because this is an astonishing movie about women’s varying relationships to motherhood, about how the yes or the no of that shapes our lives, about how the *possibility,* whether we take it on or not, is a spectre that hovers around even those of us who have consciously rejected the notion. This is a riff on women’s choices that, underneath the soap-opera-ish drama, gets darker the more you ponder it. And also, on a more cheerful note, this is a stunning portrait of two very different women; Michelle Williams and Julianne Moore are so very good here. This feels like such a rarity onscreen, to see a wide range of what women want out of life, and what women can achieve.

Marina Antunes A remake of Susanne Bier’s film of the same name, director Bart Freundlich’s After the Wedding makes some minor changes to the original story and casts Michelle Williams as Isabel a woman working at an Indian orphanage who is summoned to New York to meet Theresa (Julianne Moore), a businesswoman looking to make a sizeable donation to Isabel’s work but shortly after Isabel’s arrival, it’s clear that the two women share a past and the revelations are life-changing.

Jennifer Merin After the Wedding is an English language reiteration of Danish filmmaker Susanne Bier’s eponymous drama, with some significant changes. The new version, sensitively directed by Bart Freundlich, centers around two strong and complex female characters who find themselves in what seems to be an almost pre-destined partnership with both business and personal dimensions. That’s a gender swap from the original, and it works very well. Michelle Williams and Julianne Moore give powerful star performances that make After the Wedding poignant and provocatively engaging drama about motherhood, love and legacy.

Nikki Baughan: A pair of astonishing performances from Julianne Moore and Michelle Williams are the beating heart of Bart Freundlich’s English-language, gender-flipped adaptation of Susanne Bier’s 2006 family drama. Williams is particularly arresting in the role played by Mads Mikkelsen in the original, of an Indian orphanage worker named Isabel who uncovers a devastating long-held secret when she travels to New York to meet with wealthy potential benefactor, Theresa (Moore). Using Bier’s excellent screenplay as a template, Freundlich has sensitively re-written this twisting story, transplanting the action to New York and allowing the considerable talents of his leading ladies to take centre stage. And the pair play beautifully off each other; Williams’ Isabelle is quiet, pensive, wrought by past tragedies that she keep determinedly buried until they threaten to overwhelm her, whereas Moore’s Theresa is bombastic, driven and – in one breathtaking scene in particular – rails against the injustices of life. Watching them both share screen time in a story crafted around them is a privilege indeed.

Nell Minow: After the Wedding: Michelle Williams and Julianne Moore have the rare luxury of taking on rich, layered, authentically imperfect characters dealing with complex conflicts.

Leslie Combemale Both Michelle Williams and Julianne Moore turn in great performances in this retelling of the Oscar-nominated 2006 film of the same name, which starred Mads Mikkelsen, before he rose to the top of the Hollywood A-list, and Rolf Lassgard. Shifting the story to star two women brings new perspective on the twists and challenges of the plot. The actors, in partnership with director Bart Freundlich, deftly build both their roles into sympathetic characters, keeping the audience tethered to the proceedings, creating more tension, and raising the stakes of the storyline. Proving once again how far she has come from her days on As the World Turns and the mini-series I’ll Take Manhattan, Moore is like a female, red-headed Paul Newman. She went from ok to good to great, and now just gets better and better.

Sandie Angulo Chen:
Bart Freudlich’s adaptation of Danish director Susanne Bier’s 2006 After the Wedding cleverly switches the gender composition of the two protagonists, allowing Julianne Moore and Michelle Williams to play the parts originated by Rolf Lassgård and Mads Mikkelsen as a wealthy philanthropist and a Mumbai orphanage director. The gender swap creates an opportunity for two of today’s finest actresses to work opposite each other (with Billy Crudup doing his best yet again as a rich but put-upon husband) and have a series of increasingly emotionally charged confrontations. Switching the genders makes the central reveal harder to believe here than in the original, but it’s worth it to watch Moore and Williams take on the layered lead roles

Pam Grady: Stellar performances by Michelle Williams as Isabel, a woman who runs an orphanage in India, lured back to the US by the promise of a large donation and Julianne Moore as Theresa, the wealthy business mogul, who does the luring are the star attractions in writer/director Bart Freundlich’s remake of Susanne Bier’s acclaimed Danish drama. Moore, in particular, brings an enormous amount of empathy to the role of a not always sympathetic woman—however well-meaning Theresa is and however pure her intentions, she is attempting to play god with other people’s lives, her actions grossly manipulative. The remake is not entirely successful: The gender switch which transforms Mads Mikkelsen’s Jacob into Williams’ Isabel changes entirely the import of the revelations Isabel receives at the wedding of Theresa’s daughter and casts a different, troubling light on her decision to devote her life to orphans. That said, this is a stylish, handsome melodrama with fine support from Billy Crudup as Oscar, Theresa’s husband, and Abby Quinn as daughter Grace and a story vividly told.

Sheila Roberts Set against the backdrop of two vastly different worlds, one of abject poverty and another of extraordinary affluence, the past collides with the present in writer/director Bart Freundlich’s thought-provoking and sensitively directed film, After The Wedding. Read full review.

Susan Wloszczyna: “After the Wedding” is a gender-switch drama based on Susanne Bier’s 2006 Danish film that now pits two women against one another. Julianne Moore is a hugely wealthy head of a media company in Manhattan while Michelle Williams is a dedicated India-based charity over-seer who works on the behalf of parent-less kids. Their paths cross when Moore’s well-off mogul beckons Williams’ orphanage director to Manhattan so she can support her good deeds. Yes, there is a wedding that involves Moore’s adoptive daughter (Abby Quinn, who was a standout in “Landline”), but the connection between the two women revolves around Billy Crudup’s artist, who is married to Moore. There should be some spikier business going on but most of the emotional scenes just dissolve into mush. While having the two main characters being female instead of male kind of works, Moore’s filmmaker husband Bart Freundlich strains a bit to allow this soap opera-y tale to barely rise above the suds. As much as I admire the female leads and like the Nancy Meyers-esque designer porn, “After the Wedding” didn’t engage me as much as I hope it would.

Loren King Two of the best contemporary American actresses, Julianne Moore and Michelle Williams, enrich this somber drama about class and family, those we create, either by choice or by accident. It’s a juicy two-hander, with roles veering on melodramatic that might once might have been played by Bette Davis and Mary Astor. Read full review.

Liz Whittemore Secrets only lead to heartbreak. After The Wedding is a stunning gender-swap remake putting the focus on mothers. A spotlight is shown upon the choices a woman makes in both career and as a caretaker. This film has a beautiful commentary on generational relationships as well as the steps we take to maintain image and peace. The cast is truly phenomenal and the cinematography breathtaking. After The Wedding is a relatable story from every angle. The path of our lives cannot be controlled no matter how hard we try. Read full review.

Marilyn Ferdinand: Danish director Suzanne Bier’s 2006 family drama After the Wedding gets an American retread, only with women assuming the roles played by men in the original. Julianne Moore is Theresa, a self-made multimillionaire with an artist husband (Billy Crudup), a grown stepdaughter (Abby Quinn), and 8-year-old twin sons (Tre Ryder and Azhy Robertson). She summons Isabel (Michelle Williams), the head of an orphanage in India Theresa is thinking of funding, to New York to discuss the gift in person. Isabel gets more than she bargained for when she is invited to the stepdaughter’s wedding and comes face to face with her past. While director/screenwriter Bart Freundlich masterfully creates the milieus his characters inhabit, Theresa’s motivation for bringing Isabel into her family’s life is far-fetched. She even appears to be demanding payback from Isabel, though with the overweaning certainty of a one-percenter, Theresa probably sees herself as giving Isabel a gift she didn’t know she needed. Williams, as always, is incredible and forms the warm heart in this film, and her chemistry with Crudup is palpable. Quinn also does a nice job, but Moore often lapses into acting school excesses while never really communicating the inner life of her character. While watchable, After the Wedding left me feeling dissatisfied.

Cate Marquis Director Bart Freundlich’s AFter the Wedding is a remake of Susan Bier’s Oscar-nominated Danish film, but with the genders of the lead characters flipped, a choice that transforms it into a terrific showcase for two powerhouse actresses,Julianne Moore and Michelle Williams. Williams plays Isabel, an American who runs a struggling orphanage in India. The orphanage is in shaky financial shape but a wealthy American businesswoman, Theresa (Moore) has offered to donate two- million dollars, if Isabel herself will travel to New York to meet with her. When Isabel arrives, Theresa puts her off until the following Monday, then invites her daughter’s wedding the next day. At the wedding, Isabel makes startling discovery that sends them all down an unknown path.

So often when a European film is remade for an American audience, the result is a lesser film, but AFTER THE WEDDING is the opposite case, a film that is stronger and improved, thanks to Freundlich’s intelligent adaptation of Bier’s original script. Moore and Williams shine at the center of it all in this engrossing drama, and while Billy Crudup lends good support as Theresa’s artist husband, it is really these two female stars who run this show.

FILM DETAILS:

Title: After the Wedding

Directors: Bart Freundlich

Principal Casr: Michelle Williams, Julianne Moore, Billy Crudup

Release Date:

Running Time:

Language: English

Screenwriter: Bart Freundlich, Susanne Bier

Distribution Company: Lionsgate

Trailer

Official Website

AWFJ Movie of the Week Panel Members: Sandie Angulo Chen, Marina Antunes, Nikki Baughan, Betsy Bozdech, Leslie Combemale, Marilyn Ferdinand, Pam Grady, MaryAnn Johanson, Loren King, Cate Marquis, Jennifer Merin, Nell Minow, Sheila Roberts, Liz Whittemore, Susan Wloszczyna

Previous #MOTW Selections

Other Movies Opening This Week

Edited by Jennifer Merin

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Jennifer Merin

Jennifer Merin is the Film Critic for Womens eNews and contributes the CINEMA CITIZEN blog for and is managing editor for Women on Film, the online magazine of the Alliance of Women Film Journalists, of which she is President. She has served as a regular critic and film-related interviewer for The New York Press and About.com. She has written about entertainment for USA Today, The L.A. Times, US Magazine, Ms. Magazine, Endless Vacation Magazine, Daily News, New York Post, SoHo News and other publications. After receiving her MFA from Tisch School of the Arts (Grad Acting), Jennifer performed at the O'Neill Theater Center's Playwrights Conference, Long Wharf Theater, American Place Theatre and LaMamma, where she worked with renown Japanese director, Shuji Terayama. She subsequently joined Terayama's theater company in Tokyo, where she also acted in films. Her journalism career began when she was asked to write about Terayama for The Drama Review. She became a regular contributor to the Christian Science Monitor after writing an article about Marketta Kimbrell's Theater For The Forgotten, with which she was performing at the time. She was an O'Neill Theater Center National Critics' Institute Fellow, and then became the institute's Coordinator. While teaching at the Universities of Wisconsin and Rhode Island, she wrote "A Directory of Festivals of Theater, Dance and Folklore Around the World," published by the International Theater Institute. Denmark's Odin Teatret's director, Eugenio Barba, wrote his manifesto in the form of a letter to "Dear Jennifer Merin," which has been published around the world, in languages as diverse as Farsi and Romanian. Jennifer's culturally-oriented travel column began in the LA Times in 1984, then moved to The Associated Press, LA Times Syndicate, Tribune Media, Creators Syndicate and (currently) Arcamax Publishing. She's been news writer/editor for ABC Radio Networks, on-air reporter for NBC, CBS Radio and, currently, for Westwood One's America In the Morning. She is also a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association. For her AWFJ archive, type "Jennifer Merin" in the Search Box (upper right corner of screen).