After The Wedding is a well-meaning, well-upholstered drama which makes a decent enough fist of revising and updating Susanne Bier’s subtitled original, but which lacks the crucial nous that makes for a great picture. The presence of Julianne Moore, Michelle Williams and Billy Crudup will certainly draw audiences in, but Bart Freundlich’s film delivers more in terms of soap opera than cutting edge drama
Williams plays Isabelle, who is seeking financial support for an orphanage she works with in Calcutta. She’s contacted by mysterious benefactor Theresa, (Moore), who invites her to an NYC wedding while financial arrangements are being negotiated. But while at the wedding, Isabelle runs into an old friend who has hidden a secret from her, a secret that Theresa may, or may not, be aware of.
After The Wedding has a few decent twists in the storyline that make for a compelling watch in places, and Williams and Moore both give their characters both barrels. But there are a few crucial flaws; by reversing the sex of the main characters, a plot hole opens up, and some half-explained contrivances work against the emotional impact of the film. And the side-lining of Isabelle’s Calcutta background doesn’t fit well with the general appreciation of lush NYC lifestyles; sure, this reflects the distance between India and affluent areas in the US, but the film ultimately doesn’t do enough to draw contrasts. Isabelle’s motivations are good, but rather two dimensional as presented here, and her eventual dilemmas are not explored with sufficient bite.
There’s a rather lost art in Hollywood of having big stars and films which once would have been termed ‘women’s pictures’ ie real characters, dramatic plotting, big emotions. That kind of film-making is quite a lost art, and so After The Wedding will probably be fairly widely seen because of the dearth of competition. It’s a slick, well-made film that’s a good showcase for the stars, but which doesn’t quite pack the punch that the subject matter required. A little bit more global awareness might have helped; Freundlich’s film name-checks white saviour issues, but doesn’t say enough about them to justify the references.