With the first of what might be four reviews in the next seven days, I think I can safely state that the lazy days of the summer blockbusters are well and truly done for the year! As the superheroes start to subside, what feels like dozens of potentially interesting releases start to hit the screens every few days. They aren’t always winners, and they don’t all make enough waves to be considered at the business end of awards season, but that doesn’t stop them from coming and coming! With a dramatic premise and two heavy hitting lead actresses in centre stage, After The Wedding seemed like it might be here to play.
And play it did, just not particularly well. Loosely based on a 2006 Danish film of the same name, After The Wedding tells the story of Isabel (Michelle Williams), an American woman running an orphanage in India who is forced to make an unwilling trip home in order to discuss a large charitable donation from millionaire businesswoman Theresa Young (Julianne Moore). After accepting an invitation to the wedding of Theresa’s daughter and discovering the identity of her husband (Billy Crudup), Isabel soon realises that reasons for her presence might be more than simple fundraising.
After researching After The Wedding, I am surprised to see that it isn’t adapted from a stage play, because the film certainly has a divided into acts, Arthur Miller-esque quality to it, a family story that builds to a dramatic climax with plenty of secrets revealed and turns taken along the way. Important to note, however, that Arthur Miller would probably have created something a little more engaging. From the cast to the premise, all the pieces are there for something really riveting, but there is just something detached and ‘off’ about After The Wedding that I can’t quite put my finger on.
I hesitate to call the film boring, because that would be too harsh, but there is no getting away from the fact that it operates on a quite a flat level for large portions of the narrative. The audience are made to understand that the events taking place and revelations being made are of life changing proportions, but this isn’t always reflected in the execution of key scenes.
Ultimately, what it really boils down to is the fact that After The Wedding is a family melodrama that contains many of the familiar plot points we have seen before in the genre, in pictures that feel more way more tense and engaging. It’s a proficient and inoffensive addition to the collection, but it isn’t something that is going to go on to be regarded as a standout example. Which is a great shame considering the talent involved.
I understand that the central casting of the film has essentially been gender swapped from its Danish counterpart, which is a wise decision when you can have the likes of Julianne Moore and Michelle Williams at your disposal. As Isabel, Michelle Williams gives one of the purest, most quintessential ‘Michelle Williams’ performances I’ve seen to date. Whether or not she deliberately cultivated an expertise in the tragic, the forlorn, and the generally troubled, there’s no arguing that she’s great at it. As Isabel, a woman with past secrets and regrets who doesn’t look or feel at all comfortable in her own skin, Williams is perfect casting. Nobody can convey a silent look of desperation or sadness quite like Williams, and her natural talents are on full display here.
Playing opposite her is Julianne Moore, watchable as ever as Theresa the headstrong, determined businesswoman who is used to getting exactly what she wants. You don’t need a silly cinephile like me to remind who once again just how great Moore is, it’s just a given at this point. She is one of the few actresses who manages to come out of most projects unscathed, even if the overall production isn’t of a stellar quality. In the few shining moments the film offers, the two actresses are dynamite on screen together, managing to make what is generally a rather mundane script sizzle with palpable tension at times.
Williams and Moore are definitely the two biggest positive that the film possesses, and whilst they are both very enjoyable in their roles, one can’t help but be left with the feeling that they weren’t particularly challenged. Very much in their respective wheelhouses, they could probably have turned out these characters in their sleep.
Overall, After The Wedding is a completely average but still watchable melodrama that whilst offering some tense family moments, doesn’t quite succeed in fulfilling its full potential. You will have seen the twists and turns executed before in better films, and whilst it is always nice to see both Julianne Moore and Michelle Williams bite into some juicy material, this material just doesn’t feel quite juicy enough.