.Review: ‘After the Wedding’

A pallid remake performs a gender switch, but it's no use

NICE TRY: Julianne Moore can’t save the remake of ‘After the Wedding.’

Julianne Moore, brave as a lion and as subtle as a serpent, is my favorite actress who isn’t named Stanwyck. After the Wedding defeats Moore, yet she gives this stodgy adoption-melodrama a good fight, with sudden surprising moves and pivots.

It’s a remake of an Oscar-nominated 2006 film by Denmark’s Susanne Bier. Director Bart Freundlich switches the genders. It’s not Mads Mikkleson running an orphanage in India this time, but Michelle Williams’ Isabel. She’s first seen hooded like the Virgin Mary, bindi on her forehead, leading a group of a dozen cute kids in meditation. News comes from New York that a grant Isabel sought may be withheld. She must travel there to meet with the philanthropist, the self-made media tycoon Theresa (Moore).

Isabel is further baffled by being invited—or rather, commanded—to attend the expensive wedding of Theresa’s young callow daughter Grace (Abby Quinn). At the wedding, Isabel locks eyes with Theresa’s famous sculptor husband Oscar (Billy Crudup). By the time Grace mentions at the banquet that Theresa was not her birthmother, it’s all clear to us: Oscar and Isabel have a past together.

A Dogme 95 era vet, Bier was showing off the possibilities of using small digital cameras to bring candidness and immediacy to traditional movie drama. This remake has a budget and standard movie camera work, returning the banality to the contrast between the wealthy wretched excess of Manhattan and the peaceful poverty of India.

This cross-class drama, this conflict between “the earth and the sky”—to borrow Dostoievsky’s phrase—doesn’t gel. Freundlich tries, linking the orphan’s compound in India and Theresa’s lakeside mansion with drone shots.

The crop-haired Williams shows her force, beaming like the rising sun at poor confused Grace. The aging Crudup’s cheekbones are coming out—the skull beneath the skin—and there’s a dust of grey on his temples. He’s wearing well.

Moore has remarkable moments, instants of rage and tenderness, demonstrations of a fire that can’t be smothered. When she lays into Oscar for lying to her by omission, it’s a distant echo of one Moore’s greatest scenes: the incident in 1993’s Short Cuts when, half-dressed, she dropped her ironing to shut up her insinuating accusatory husband (Matthew Modine). But Moore can’t make this drama work, as it seeks to unite the striving of the dirt-poor with the emotional woes of the very rich. Hurt feelings don’t equal the problem of starving to death.

After the Wedding
PG-13; 112 Mins.
3Below Theaters & Lounge and AMC Saratoga

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