After the Wedding
by Brandon Thomas
The adult drama has all but vanished from American multiplexes. Sure, the occasional Oscar-baity title sneaks through around the holidays, but those mom-pleasing, bring your hanky dramas of yesteryear are pretty much a thing of the past.
Despite the presence of A+ talent and an overall intriguing story, After the Wedding isn’t the shot in the arm the genre was looking for.
A retread of Susanne Bier’s 2006 Oscar nominee for foreign language film, After the Wedding follows Isabel (Michelle Williams), who is living a fulfilling, productive life running a small orphanage in Kolkata.
After an extremely generous donation offer is made to the orphanage, Isabel travels to New York to meet Theresa (Julianne Moore), the benefactor. Unexpectedly invited to the wedding of Theresa’s daughter, Isabel finds herself face-to-face with a man from her past (Billy Crudup), and a 20-year-old decision that will shake her to her core.
After the Wedding trips up right out of the gate by leaning so heavily into melodrama. Instead of an emotionally weighty dramatic piece anchored by an amazing cast, this film latches on to genre cliches and doesn’t let go.
Deep, dark family secrets? Check. Mystery illness? Check. Sneaky motivations? Double check. The movie is one evil twin away from being a bad episode of General Hospital.
Did I mention the amount of teary-eyed yelling? There is plenty.
The only real sense of urgency comes from the movie being in a rush to get to that next dramatic reveal. The characters, and likewise the audience, are never given the chance to dwell on what just happened. The experience feels cheap and anticlimactic.
Moore and Williams continue to show that they’re national treasures, but even they can only do so much with the material afforded them. The two actresses share multiple scenes together, but any emotional weight is often deflated by the scattershot script—co-written by director Bart Freundlich (Moore’s husband)— jumping from one unearned character beat to the next. These people feel like a blended mix of every character seen in indie dramas instead of being fully-formed individuals.
Despite reeling in a Who’s Who of a cast, After the Wedding never becomes anything more than a Who Cares.