Grace (Abby Quinn) is getting married. She’s young, probably too young to marry, but her parents don’t have much of an option. If they say no, they’ll alienate her. If they say yes, then they’ll seem complicit when the inevitable divorce comes six months down the road. Either way, they’re out a small fortune for the wedding.
Lucky for Mom and Dad, they’re rich. She, Theresa (Julianne Moore), owns a tech company that’s revolutionized media. He, Oscar (Billy Crudup), is a successful sculptor. They live in an impossibly magnificent home, probably on Long Island, which doesn’t just feel like a world away from the Kolkata, India orphanage Isabel (Michelle Williams) runs; it might as well be a different planet.
It’s uncertain how long Isabel’s been in India — certainly no more than 18 years — but her heart has taken root. Enough that having to fly back to New York to secure funding from Theresa physically irritates her. But she must, so she does. Even more irritating, Theresa is far too busy planning Grace’s wedding. So talk of the orphanage will have to wait until after the wedding, which Isabel is now invited to because what’s another plate of chicken or fish when you’re already throwing a party that cost about as much as a fully-loaded SUV?
This might seem like enough plot for an entire movie, and it could be, but writer/director Bart Freundlich races through the set-up lickety-split delivering the movie’s first blow with little hesitation: At the wedding, Isabel is reunited with her former lover, Oscar. And then, like a quick one-two punch, Isabel realizes Grace isn’t Theresa’s daughter, she’s hers. And we’re not even to the heavy stuff yet.
After the Wedding is an unusual movie. Though it is an English-language remake of the 2006 Danish film of the same name, After the Wedding feels more like a piece of theater than it does cinema. That’s not to say After the Wedding is an uninteresting film visually, it’s just so jam-packed with character, dialogue, and story that there’s very little room for pictorial invention or editorial innovation.
But in a movie like this, it’s the performances that count, and Moore, Williams, Crudup, and Quinn bring it. There’s not a lot beyond them, but you don’t really want for more. Maybe a Kleenex or two as certain twists unfold, but that’s to be expected with a movie that opens where most movies choose to end.
Written & directed by Bart Freundlich
Based on the Danish movie, After the Wedding, written by Susanne Bier and Anders Thomas Jensen, and directed by Bier
Produced by Harry Finkel, Bart Freundlich, Joel B. Michaels, Julianne Moore, Silvio Muraglia
Starring: Michelle Williams, Julianne Moore, Billy Crudup, Abby Quinn
Sony Pictures Classics, Rated PG-13, Running time 111 minutes, Opens August 23, 2019