A surprise arthouse hit, the original Danish After the Wedding earned a 2007 Oscar nod for Best Foreign Language Film and helped introduce American audiences to the severe Scandi charisma of Mads Mikkelsen, future star of Doctor Strange and TV’s Hannibal.
Director Bart Freundlich (Trust the Man) brings his own movie stars to this glossy, melancholy American adaptation, including his wife, Julianne Moore, and enough high-end real estate to make Nancy Meyers mad with throw-pillow envy.
He’s also switched the genders of the protagonists: An earnest, pixie-cut Michelle Williams is Isabel, who’s seemingly devoted her life’s work to an impoverished orphanage in India; when a mysterious benefactor offers a large donation on the sole condition that she come to New York to collect it, she practically has to be shoved onto the airplane.
The VIP treatment she receives when she lands — town cars, clothing allowance, luxe hotel suite — both confounds and vaguely offends her; what does this brisk, bossy woman, a self-made advertising mogul named Theresa (Moore), think she’s buying with her money? And why does she seem so eager to invest in something she appears to have almost no real personal interest in?
The answer becomes both clearer and much more complicated when Isabel is politely coerced to attend a family celebration before the final papers are signed — and locks eyes with Theresa’s startled husband (Billy Crudup) across the lawn.
Williams’ Isabel is almost willfully unshowy: a woman so reserved that it’s hard at first to tell if she allows herself to feel anything at all, outside of her righteous commitment to the children she dotes on at the orphanage. Moore’s Theresa, all affluence, confidence, and big gestures, comes to own the movie in one late devastating scene; as the man between them, Crudup brings quiet empathy to an uneasy role.
If the script’s epiphanies don’t feel quite as shocking or profound the second time around, it’s still pleasing to watch these beautiful, troubled people move through their equally beautiful spaces: something borrowed, something blue — and with Freundlich’s careful alterations, something new. B