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Review: After the Wedding (2019)

After the Wedding (2019)

Directed by: Bart Freundlich

Premise: The director (Michelle Williams) of an Indian orphanage travels to New York to meet an American business woman (Julianne Moore) offering to be her benefactor. The director discovers that the business woman is married to her ex (Billy Crudup) and they have raised her daughter (Abby Quinn), who the director thought was put up for adoption.

What Works: After the Wedding has a great cast and the actors turn out some very strong performances. Michelle Williams plays an American who has traveled halfway across the world and dedicated her life to helping children in need. Williams inhabits this character from the inside out and conveys her discomfort with first world opulence as well as her strong moral conviction. Julianne Moore is cast as a business magnate who runs a successful company and Moore’s character is accustomed to being in charge of everything. That assumption of authority shows throughout her performance but the character’s circumstances aren’t quite what they initially appear and as the business woman’s backstory is revealed Moore’s performance deepens. Billy Crudup’s character is the business woman’s husband and the orphanage director’s baby daddy while Abby Quinn plays the daughter. The film doesn’t give Crudup and Quinn much to do but the actors instill their characters with personality and life.

What Doesn’t: After the Wedding has a premise that is so farfetched that it’s absurd. The filmmakers try to fill in some of the logical gaps but the rationalizations do little for the film’s credibility and the story adds other unlikely plot turns and character choices. After the Wedding is a series of ludicrous developments made worse by the fact that almost nothing happens. Michelle Williams’ character is invited to New York under the auspices of securing funding for her orphanage but that’s later revealed to be a ruse to put the director in touch with her daughter. Everyone meets and the truth is quickly revealed. From then on, the movie flat lines. The daughter is upset at her father for about one scene and then gets over it. She gets together with her biological mother but these scenes have no drama. The father is suddenly reunited with his ex, whose daughter he has raised in secret, but any beefs are quashed with virtually no effort. There’s barely even any awkwardness and nothing is at stake. The characters have nothing to overcome and no room to grow. In the opening it’s established that Williams’ character has a life in India with a man who is her lover and an orphan boy she is raising as her own. Circumstances in New York threaten to take all of that away from her and therein lies something unseemly about After the Wedding. This story is ultimately about a rich woman using her wealth and resources to manipulate others into doing her bidding. There’s quite literally no consideration as to whether this woman’s wishes are to be respected because there is no escaping the reach of her power. The movie has no ideas about that. The agency and desires of the rest of the cast are as oblivious to the filmmakers as they are to Moore’s character.

Bottom Line: After the Wedding has some good performances but it is a badly conceived story. The movie begins with an absurd premise and no one behaves in a way that resembles credible human behavior.

Episode: #765 (September 8, 2019)