Though I normally avoid in-depth spoilers in my reviews, I believe it’s important to break this rule before discussing AFTER THE WEDDING further. Simply put, the twists and turns of its story require a suspension of disbelief that I never reached. In fact, they’d feel more at home in a soap opera or fallout-out parody of weepy dramas. Isabel (Michelle Williams) travels to New York to meet Theresa (Moore), a potential donor to the former’s orphanage in India. Subsequently, it is discovered that Theresa’s husband Oscar (Billy Crudup) fathered a daughter with Isabel decades earlier. A daughter whom Oscar secretly kept despite saying he supported the decision to put her up for adoption. Of course, the daughter has also been told her birth mother died. If this absurd sequence of events has already overwhelmed you, be warned: it only gets crazier.
Perhaps the most striking difference between Freundlind’s AFTER THE WEDDING and the original is the gender-swapped leads. This notably requires the script to spend more time explaining the twist I mentioned above (Mads Mikkelsen’s character from the Danish film conceived a child without knowing, which is much simpler than the cancelled adoption). In my opinion, neither Moore nor Crudup justify such an unnecessary change. Considering Theresa’s arc and overly expressive scenes throughout the film’s second half, I can’t help but wonder if all this extra work was done to give Moore the showiest role. By contrast, Crudup just isn’t given much to do beyond reacting to his scene partners. Thankfully, Williams’ subtle performance makes it possible to look past Freundlind’s contrivances. For instance, there are a lot of cliched close-ups of actors silently contemplating. It’s no small effort to convey the impact of so many twists alongside Isabel’s enigmatic past, but Williams consistently nails it with mere glances.
Speaking of the core trio, the equal focus Freundlind attempts to grant them feels indecisive and muddles the film’s perspective. Particularly during the first 20 minutes, there are awkward cuts between long scenes of Isabel, Theresa, and Oscar that go nowhere and don’t clarify the characters’ relationships. Basically, the audience is held captive until we’re far enough into the film for it to reveal the twist. This is exemplified by opening on Isabel’s orphanage, a charming, gorgeously shot setting which is mostly forgotten about for the rest of the film. I loved seeing Isabel’s life in India and wish it had been shown more, yet it feels out of place for the story Freundlind is trying to tell. Similarly, Oscar’s career as a sculptor gets a weird amount of attention, ostensibly so he can deliver a cringe- worthy monologue about how he carefully chooses his materials much like he chose to keep his daughter.
Out of all the adaptations I’ve seen, AFTER THE WEDDING falls flatly in the middle. If you’re willing to go along with its absurdity, you’ll still be watching a great performance from Michelle Williams. Nevertheless, I’d still recommend watching the Danish version afterwards. It’s not perfect, but it’s better than Freundlind’s pale imitation.