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Billy Crudup, Abby Quinn and Julianne Moore in After the Wedding.

Julio Macat/Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics / Mongrel Media

  • After the Wedding
  • Directed by Bart Freundlich
  • Written by Bart Freundlich, based on the original screenplay by Susanne Bier and Anders Thomas Jensen
  • Starring Michelle Williams, Julianne Moore and Billy Crudup
  • Classification 14A
  • 110 minutes

rating

If someone, somewhere decided it was necessary to remake Susanne Bier’s excellent 2006 Danish family-secrets drama After the Wedding, the least they could do is add something new to the proceedings. American writer-director Bart Freundlich does about half the work necessary to make a remake feel vital, but is half better than none? It’s a question that I’m still puzzling over after watching Freundlich’s version, which flips the genders of the story’s two main characters but does little else to justify the time and resources spent on remaking Bier’s world.

Maybe Freundlich just wanted to spend more time with his real-life wife, Julianne Moore, who is cast here as Theresa, a hard-charging, high-powered New York media executive who is angling to make a sizable donation to the Calcutta orphanage run by the quieter, haunted Isabel (Michelle Williams). As Theresa begins to pull Isabel closer into her lap-of-luxury world, the characters begin to spill a number of secrets, all in a refreshingly frank manner. But these intriguing turns of events can’t exactly be credited to Freundlich – they’re cut and pasted, almost beat by beat, from Bier and Anders Thomas Jensen’s original script.

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What we’re instead left with are two diametrically opposed performances: Williams goes small and intimate as the distressed Isabel, while Moore opts for a more operatic, less successful tenor that results in what might be the actress’s most unhinged moment ever (and not in a good way). If Freundlich and Moore were looking for a family project, they could have done much worse – like, say, their 2005 collaboration Trust the Man. But I’m not sure audiences need to share in their devotion to one another.

After the Wedding opens Aug. 16 in Toronto and Vancouver, and Aug. 23 in Montreal

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