AFTER THE WEDDING (Bart Freundlich). 110 minutes. Opens Friday (August 16). See listing. Rating: NN
Susanne Bier’s 2006 Danish melodrama After The Wedding is not currently available on any Canadian streaming services, which is a shame. It’s an excellent character piece and a powerful human story, despite its melodramatic tendencies, and I was going to beg you to watch that instead of the pointless remake Bart Freundlich has made.
Bier’s After The Wedding starred Mads Mikkelsen as a Mumbai orphanage director forced to confront his past when a wealthy financier (Rolf Lassgård) summons him home to offer a massive donation – with strings attached. Sidse Babbett Knudsen played Lassgård’s wife, whom Mikkelsen knew decades earlier.
Freundlich’s remake swaps the genders, casting Michelle Williams as the orphanage director (who’s been relocated to Kolkata), Julianne Moore as the financier and Billy Crudup as Moore’s husband. It’s a clever approach to an emotionally tangled, densely plotted text, and all three actors do their best to make it work, but Freundlich continually struggles to justify the remake’s existence.
This is kind of a weird criticism, I know – would people who’ve never seen the original even care that this is a remake? – but the longer you spend watching Freundlich’s movie, the more time you have to think about the changes he’s inflicted on the material that work against the story he’s telling.
He doesn’t seem to be aware of how much the gender swap affects a crucial element of the plot – to the point that said element now has to be explained to the various concerned parties in three separate conversations – and his own obvious affection for real-life wife Moore has led him to sand down the sharpest edges of her character, to the point of omitting the one scene that gave the original’s soap-opera narrative some semblance of psychological clarity. (Was he worried it might make her character just a little bit unsympathetic? It might have, but that would have been true to the original concept now she just seems wildly inconsistent.)
The whole thing is produced in the luxe American-indie mode perfected by Miramax around 2002: attractive actors in expensive, tailored clothing wander through gorgeously art-decorated locations in SoHo and Long Island while a mournful Mychael Danna score tells us how they feel.
The cast does their best, and Landline’s Abby Quinn is very good as the young woman whose nuptials bring everyone together for the first time. But the whole thing was just so much better in the original Danish, and it would be silly of me to pretend that film doesn’t exist. Go dig out your DVD player and find a used copy. It’s one of Mikkelsen’s best performances, and one of Bier’s best movies. No one will say anything like that about the remake.