After the Wedding
When Michelle Williams can't quite get an emotional grip on a character, you know there's something amiss. In After the Wedding, Williams is Isabel, whom we first meet in India, where she helps run an orphanage. She heads to New York City for a meeting with Theresa (Julianne Moore), a successful entrepreneur who's dangling a seven-figure donation to the children's home.
The wedding of the title is for Theresa's daughter, Grace (Abby Quinn), which Theresa strong-arms Isabel to attend. There Isabel is dumbfounded to encounter Theresa's semifamous avant-garde artist husband, Oscar (Billy Crudup, on cruise control), with whom she has a painful history.
That’s only the beginning of the movie's series of grand revelations, worthy of a whole season of any prime-time soap. The plot will be familiar to anyone who saw Susanne Bier's 2006 Danish film of the same name, an Oscar nominee in the Foreign Language category, in which the Isabel and Theresa characters were men, connected by a woman.
The gender swap makes perfect sense in this remake, adapted and directed by Bart Freundlich (Moore's husband). But his at-a-distance filmmaking — replete with unnecessary drone shots — and dull dialogue don't do justice to the fraught situation. Perhaps it all seems more credible and moving in Danish with subtitles.
Moore's role in particular is missing the poignancy it should project, leaving the actress to seem cool and controlling but without the vulnerability necessary to make Theresa sympathetic. Isabel, on the other hand, is admirable but powerless — not a good fit for Williams, who was so volcanic in the recent Fosse/Verdon miniseries.
Abby Quinn, as the daughter, has some great moments, but her character is burdened with such sudden changes in loyalty and emotion that Grace remains more device that daughter. (Her poor groom, Frank, is essentially a cardboard cutout, posed in various postures, through no fault of actor Will Chase.)
After the Wedding aims to knock you off your feet with its twists and Big Emotions, but it's the movie that ends up stumbling to its finish. And it’s there you’ll find a charming consolation prize: the lovely end-credits song, “Know You for a Moment,” written and sung by actress Abby Quinn. It’s definitely worth checking out, whether you see the movie or not.
Grade: D-plus. Rated R. Now playing at Grail Moviehouse.
(Photo: David Giesbrecht/Sony Pictures Classics)