Saturday, November 02, 2019

After the Wedding – clashing couples, culture, truth and identity in a flawed yet watchable remake (QFT until Thursday 7 November)

Successful media tycoon Theresa (Julianne Moore) organising her stepdaughter’s wedding, selling her business, and planning a philanthropic investment in an Indian orphanage. When Michelle Williams’s character Isabel is dragged to New York to finalise the deal, her already tangled life is further upset in this clash of couples, culture, truth and identity.

Bart Freundlich’s film After the Wedding remakes Susanne Bier’s 2006 Danish original and recasts the protagonists as women. Nothing is terribly subtle with a fallen tree blocking a path and broken eggs in a disturbed nest offering an early foretelling of what is to come. Later fireworks shine light into darkness. We’re soon tripping over the metaphors littering the cinema screen.

A whole sequence of revelations drop with near clockwise precision. Yet while the accompanying bursts of raw emotion offer up impressive acting, they failed to move me in a story that’s intentionally designed to pull at everyone’s heart strings.

Moore gently disguises Theresa’s motivation for putting her affairs in order, while Williams works her way through the palette of how to be conflicted. They can both convey pages of script with a single glance, though Williams is nearly too young to make the storyline add up.

Theresa’s husband Oscar’s linen jacket (worn along with a permanent frown by Billy Crudup) almost creases with nervousness as he comes face-to-face with an old friend. Yet it’s the newly-wed daughter (Abby Quinn) who comes the most interesting character as she tries to understand what’s just happened to her family tree. Quinn also gets the last word, performing her own song over the closing credits.

From a cinematographical standpoint, the drone footage of the earthy Delhi scenes (the opening shot is magnificent, spoiled only by a continuity error three shots later) and the sumptuous New York environs are pretty on the eye. But ethically, the scenes of need in India not only contrast with the opulence of well-to-do US, but also with the money invested in making the film that pleasures an audience without challenging them to live any differently.

While flawed, After the Wedding is worth a trip to the cinema to try and unpack how so much of the film can work so well yet fail to connect with its audience. Unfortunately, the Danish original doesn’t seem to be available to view on demand to see if it delivered a more convincing melodrama.

After the Wedding will be screened in Queen’s Film Theatre until Thursday 7 November.

No comments: