Secrets abound in Bart Freundlich’s drama, After the Wedding, which opens in Canadian theatres on August 16.
Filmed in India and the United States, and adapted from Susanne Bier’s 2006 Oscar-nominated Danish movie, it pits a wealthy entrepreneur against an idealist whose lives are more intertwined than they initially realize.
Isabel (Michelle Williams), the director of an orphanage in Calcutta, is summoned to New York City to meet a potential donor, Theresa (Julianne Moore). Isabel is reluctant to travel such a long distance, but she can’t refuse because a $2 million gift is at stake.
Having decided to make the arduous trip, she is confident of her ability to convince Theresa that the orphanage deserves a new infusion of funds. “I’m not coming back without a suitcase full of money,” she boasts.
The scene shifts to a wealthy suburb near New York City. Theresa, the owner of a lucrative media placement company, is happily married to Oscar (Billy Crudup), a successful sculptor. They have three children, two young boys and an adult daughter, Grace (Abby Quinn), who’s days away from getting married.
Upon her arrival in New York, Isabel receives VIP treatment, but much to her disappointment and annoyance, her first meeting with Theresa quickly grounds to a halt and is inconclusive. Consumed by preparations for Grace’s wedding and the imminent sale of her company, she’s distracted and can’t concentrate on Isabel’s proposals to improve the orphanage.
Theresa promises Isabel to deal with the matter after the wedding, to which she’s invited. At the reception, Oscar sees Isabel and can’t take his eyes off her. “What are you doing here?” he pointedly asks. Isabel looks sullen and angry. Suddenly, her plans to return to India triumphantly appear in jeopardy. She’s so upset that she rudely rebuffs a wedding guest who attempts to engage her in a friendly conversation.
What seems clear is that Isabel and Oscar are no strangers. They have a personal history, but the details are relatively slow to emerge. When they surface, there are repercussions that directly affect everyone concerned, including Theresa and Grace.
When their rescheduled meeting finally takes place, Theresa exhibits a generosity that surprises Isabel so much that her suspicion is aroused. Why is Theresa so forthcoming? Does she have ulterior motives? Should Isabel be wary?
The plot grows all the more complex after Oscar stumbles upon two bottles of pills that are indicative of Theresa’s dire medical condition.
Williams delivers a subtle performance, but she’s at least a decade too young for the role. Moore is by turns cool and explosive. Quinn, who sings the haunting theme song at the end of the film, is fine. Crudup seems out of his depth, like a fish out of water.
After the Wedding is competently-crafted, but the loose ends it leaves behind compel a viewer to exercise his or her imagination.