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ReelTalk Movie Reviews
Top Dramatic Fare
by James Colt Harrison

Taken from a 2006 Danish film by Susanne Bier, the remake of After the Wedding switched the main characters from male to female. The Danish film starred international actors Mads Mikkelson, Rolf Lassgard and Sidse Babett Knudsen. It was a great critical success and was nominated for an Academy Award® as Best Foreign Film, as well as many European film awards.

When actress Julianne Moore and her husband, director Bart Freundlich got the idea to remake it for an English language version, they re-imagined the original script by Susanne Bier and Anders Thomas Jenson and added their own touches. By switching the main characters from male to female, it gave the story a new twist and also an opportunity for Moore and Michelle Williams to chew the scenery.

Michelle Williams’ character of Isabel runs an orphanage in Calcutta instead of in Mumbai as in the original film. She has devoted her life to saving children’s lives and has helped to clothe and feed them. The orphanage is going bankrupt and is rapidly running out of operational funds.

An interested donor in New York dangles a carrot over Isabel and insists she come to the Big Apple to discuss getting a generous greasing of her palms. Isabel hasn’t returned to the city in twenty years as it seems to hold bad memories for her. But she relents, for she needs the money to keep the doors of the orphanage in India open. But why is she so reluctant to return?

Moore plays the billionaire philanthropist who usually gets her way. She insists Isabel stay for the weekend to attend her daughter’s wedding, and then they will sign the important papers to transfer the mega-tons of money to the orphanage. Moore plays a strong CEO-type, sometimes rude to her staff and not showing much compassion to underlings. In a sense, she plays her character as an unlikeable twit on purpose. Her hairdresser on the film has sabotaged her red tresses. Her hair looks bedraggled and unkempt .You would think a woman of her means could afford a trip to the hair salon and a little whipping up by a Vidal Sasson clone. Anyway, she manages to get Isabel to attend her daughter’s wedding at a very fancy garden party at the Oyster Bay mansion.

The daughter Grace is played by youngster Abby Quinn, who has a startling resemblance to Elijah Wood in drag. They must be related. Same face. Although her lipstick livens it up a bit. Amazing. Anyway, she’s not sure about marrying the very handsome Jonathan (Alex Esola), a toady in mother’s office. Ms. Quinn, although a little wet behind the ears, comes across as a fine actress and handles her dramatic scenes like a pro.

Well, the interesting thing about this plot is that we can’t give it away. Relationships arise we never dreamed about, entanglements surprise us, and plot twists twirl us around like a twizzle stick. It is fun trying to        guess what happens next and who does what to whom. Apparently, a lot happened years ago that is now coming to fruition. And what will it all mean for the future? Poor husband Oscar gets caught in the middle. He’s played to perfection by the very capable Billy Crudup.

Two of Hollywood’s finest actresses vie for attention. Williams holds in her emotions. The simmering rage underneath seems quite apparent, and the audience will wonder why she doesn’t explode like a bad water heater. Moore’s emoting appears more obvious because she has some attention-getting rages, crying jags, and sympathetic implosions. They could both be nominated for Oscars® next year.

If you are looking for a good, old-fashioned Hollywood-style drama with lots of shrieking, crying, rages, and temper tantrums, this is for you. Remember Joan Crawford and Bette Davis pictures? After the Wedding is not a story-book fairy tale. But it is top adult dramatic fare.

(Released by Sony Pictures Classics/ Ingenious Media and rated “PG-13” for thematic material and some strong language.)

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