'After the Wedding' misses the mark

'After the Wedding' misses the mark


What a lousy thing for a mother to do on her daughter's wedding day.

What a terrible thing, for parents to perpetuate an enormous lie to their child for some two decades.

What a selfish thing, for someone to hide a life-changing secret from everyone in her life.

What a waste for such a talented cast to be stuck playing characters who bend and break the truth for questionable reasons in a story containing some gigantic but not particularly plausible or emotionally impactful twists.

Writer-director Bart Freundlich's "After the Wedding" is a remake of Susanne Bier's 2006 family melodrama, with the genders of the two leads switched and a few other and less dramatic changes, but it's a morose and slow-paced and off-putting drama.

And the ending is so underwhelming and delivered with such a shrug of the shoulders, they might as well have played Peggy Lee's "Is That All There Is?" over the closing credits.

Michelle Williams portrays the saintly but tightly wound and super-intense Isabel, who works at an orphanage in Calcutta and is adored by the children. The orphanage is understaffed, stretched beyond capacity and in dire need of funding, and that's when Isabel gets word a wealthy benefactor in New York City is strongly considering making a $2 million donation.

One catch: The mysterious potential donor has stipulated Isabel, and only Isabel, must be the one to travel to New York to make the final pitch to secure those funds.

Julianne Moore (who is married to director Freundlich) gives a mile-a-minute and surprisingly broad performance as Theresa, the phenomenally successful media/branding executive who is considering that mega-donation to Isabel's orphanage.

They meet at Theresa's office. Theresa doesn't really have time to listen to Isabel's presentation because, in addition to considering selling off her company for something like $40 million, she's also iPhone deep in last-minute planning for her daughter's wedding, which is happening this weekend and is taking place on the grounds of the home Theresa shares with her successful sculptor husband, Oscar (Billy Crudup), and their daughter, Grace (Abby Quinn).

"Here's an idea," Theresa says to Isabel. "Why don't you come to the wedding and have a great time, and then we can get together on Monday to discuss the donation?" Isabel agrees to attend, and she shows up at the fabulous upstate estate just as the wedding vows are being exchanged.

And that's the moment when Isabel realizes there's a whole other layer to this trip to New York, and she's not the only one whose world is about to be rocked to the core.

Even after we learn the real reason behind Theresa's actions, the manner and timing of her manipulations come across as needlessly mean and even cruel in some instances. 

For a supposed tearjerker, this film is so tone-deaf my guess is there won't be a wet eye in the house.


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