If a filmmaker is going to remake a much-admired movie, and premiere it on the opening night of the Sundance Film Festival, that filmmaker had better bring a fresh approach — which is what director-screenwriter Bart Freundlich does with the intense melodrama “After the Wedding.”
Isabel (Michelle Williams) is an American living in India, running a school for orphaned children. The school is desperately short of money, and Isabel’s only hope is a wealthy New York tech CEO, Theresa (Julianne Moore), who has promised a $2 million donation — but she wants to meet Isabel in person first.
Theresa puts Isabel up in a ritzy Manhattan hotel, and Isabel feels put off by the lavish treatment; her week’s stay, she tells folks back in India, could buy textbooks for a whole grade. Isabel is even more put off when Theresa delays her donation decision, citing her stress over planning the wedding of her daughter Grace (Abby Quinn). Theresa invites Isabel to the wedding, at the Long Island mansion she shares with her husband Oscar (Billy Crudup), a sculptor.
Isabel arrives just as the wedding ceremony is starting, but one look at the principals tells Isabel there are other motives at play. The way the sickening realization crosses Williams’ face is a master class in wordless acting, and it’s only the first of many performance beats — by Williams, Moore, Crudup and Quinn — that elevate the story above the level of soap opera.
Freundlich (“The Myth of Fingerprints”) puts a fresh gloss on the 2006 Danish film, directed by “Bird Box’s” Susanne Bier, with a not-so-simple gender flip. (In the original, Williams’ character was played by Mads Mikkelsen.) The switch deepens Isabel’s pain and feeling of betrayal, and puts Theresa’s manipulations in a different context, adding a sharp sense of melancholy as the story builds to a shattering conclusion.
‘After the Wedding’
Opened August 9 in select cities; opens Friday, August 30, at Broadway Centre Cinemas (Salt Lake City), Megaplex Jordan Commons (Sandy) and Megaplex Thanksgiving Point (Lehi). Rated PG-13 for thematic material and some strong language. Running time: 112 minutes.
This review first was posted on this site on January 25, 2019, after the movie premiered at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival.