Secrets and Lies: American Remake of the Oscar-Nominated Danish Film After the Wedding is a Frustrating Affair 

click to enlarge SONY PICTURES CLASSICS
  • Sony Pictures Classics

A remake of writer-director Susanne Bier’s 2006 Oscar-nominated Danish film of the same name, the American version of After the Wedding is repackaged and scrubbed of all emotional value. Despite earning nine career Oscar nominations and one win between them, actors Michelle Williams (My Week with Marilyn) and Julianne Moore (Still Alice) are bogged down by the film’s lethargic storytelling, not to mention a narrative brimming with artificial family melodrama.

It’s difficult to discuss After the Wedding without giving away the major reveal in the script, so apologies for sounding vague in the description. Williams stars as Isabel Andersen, the head of an orphanage in India who’s doing everything in her power to make a good life for the children under her care. When rich New York media mogul Theresa Young (Moore) offers to donate $2 million to her cause if Isabel travels to America to meet in person, she makes the trip and, in turn, is invited to the wedding of Theresa’s daughter Grace (Abby Quinn), so they can “get to know each other better.”

click to enlarge SONY PICTURES CLASSICS
  • Sony Pictures Classics

Characters’ intentions begin to blur when Isabel shows up to the wedding and sees that Grace’s father Oscar (Billy Crudup) is a man from her past. Is the coincidence merely that, or was there something amiss with Theresa’s initial invitation? What’s the connection between Oscar and Isabel that makes her react like she was just socked in the stomach? Screenwriter and director Bart Freundlich (Wolves) doesn’t handle the mysterious nature of their relationship well. He drags out the inevitable twist to an unbearable degree, only to let it land with a thud.

Once the big announcement is made, Freundlich proceeds to unpack his screenplay in frustratingly short scenes, which fail to expand on anything that would realistically solve the issues the characters are thrown into. For example, in one scene, Grace shows up to Isabel’s hotel room to talk about their situation, but the conversation lasts just long enough for them to exchange numbers so they can talk later.

After the Wedding continues to flounder around like this for the rest of its runtime. Freundlich tries to give the remake a reason to exist by swapping genders with the Danish film’s two leads, but the change-up creates plot problems rather than providing unique contrast.

Despite their satisfying performances, Williams and Moore aren’t given enough depth to explore their complex circumstances. Their conflict feels forced and underdeveloped. There’s talent in front of the camera, but very little in the firm rings true — even as a glorified soap opera.

After the Wedding opens exclusively at the Santikos Bijou Cinema Bistro August 30.

2 out of 5 stars

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