Directed by: Bart Freundlich
Written by: Bart Freundlich
Starring: Julianne Moore, Michelle Williams, Billy Crudup, Abby Quinn, Will Chase
American remakes from films made around the globe have a varying degree of success. When it works, it’s fantastic and when it doesn’t the fault usually lies in culturally figuring out what made the original work. Whether that be shifting the tone or the story not fitting to the American way of life, It’s a tight rope to walk and unfortunately, this American iteration of After the Wedding fails to deliver on this beautiful melodrama.
Living life helping at an orphanage she co-founded in India, Isabel (Michelle Williams) is alerted of a philanthropist wanting to possibly donate to the cause. The only caveat lies in Isabel having to travel to New York to seal the deal. While reluctant to go, Isabel sees the value the money has for helping the orphanage. After landing in New York, she gets invited to attend the wedding of the philanthropist, Theresa’s (Julianne Moore) daughter, Grace (Abby Quinn). While attending the wedding, Isabel discovers something from her past she had no idea would resurface.
Susanne Bier crafted her best film with this story, made in 2006. The way she weaved through the melodramatic plot points showed incredible skill and it landed with emotional resonance. It’s so disheartening that this film took the story and added two acting legends in Michelle Williams and Julianne Moore, only to make it worse. The root of it comes from the tone, which may be related to the culture clash between the two films.
Bier’s version has so much more heart and you feel the warmth of the storytelling happening. Being a Danish filmmaker, the story has cultural affection to it, which might be different than the United States. This version feels much colder and even the promotional material makes it feel like a suspenseful thriller, which goes against what the story embodies. It could be due to the fact that Americans are colder to one another and it seems that the filmmakers took that direction. If that was the choice then it doesn’t work for the type of story they attempt to tell. It’s a fundamental misunderstanding that leads to this film’s detriment. It feels much more maudlin and it showed through the performances no matter how much the actors tried
Michelle Williams and Julianne Moore rarely mail it in when acting and they gave it their all in this one. Moore, who also has a producorial credit on the project, brings most of the heart of the film, which her character should. She has this insecurity behind each smile especially when she discovers the big reveal that works so well. Williams is an all-timer, but the way her character was written feels so distant and hard to connect to and part of it may come down to the translation between versions. In the original, the characters were male with Mads Mikkelsen and Rolf Lassgard taking on those roles. Williams’s character, Isabel, feels even more distant than what Mikkelsen provided with Jacob. Switching the gender of the characters makes what transpires all the more interesting, especially once the reveal comes forward but it didn’t have the emotional resonance it needed to have.
A remake that had the potential to add something new to the narrative but lost much of what made the first iteration so special and lovable. The melodrama sticks out and becomes a distraction unlike what Susanne Bier was able to distract the audience from. It all comes down to heart, which was severely lacking in this film.