Opening night at the Sundance Film Festival, in recent years, has featured mixed results. During the afternoon, before the premiere, as you walk around Park City, there are countless variations of the same conversation that goes something like, “Hey, we could get another Whiplash!,” followed by, “Sure, or we could get The Bronze.” (If you don’t know what The Bronze is, and you probably do not, there’s a reason for that.) And last year gave us Blindspotting, a movie that stayed in the 2018 discussion the whole year and wound up on our best films of 2018 list. The two Thursday night Sundance premieres at Eccles, After the Wedding and Native Son, were both ambitious efforts, but I’d have a hard time imagining either on any “best of” lists.
Bart Freundlich’a After the Wedding is a remake of Susanne Bier’s Oscar-nominated Danish film, only Freundlich gender swaps a lot of the roles. Look, it’s always weird after a film festival movie when people ask what you think and then, when your answer differs from theirs, you get this sad, perplexed face in return. But I did seem to enjoy After the Wedding more than most people. And I think there are a couple reasons for that.
With a movie starring Julianne Moore and Michelle Williams and it being the opening night film, I got the sense people were looking for something profound. After the Wedding is not a profound movie. Instead, it’s a movie about hidden family secrets, with a comical amount of twists, and it plays more as melodramatic schlock. And I just happened to really be in the mood for melodramatic schlock.
Without giving too much away: Isabel (Williams) works for a non-profit organization in India. She’s summoned to New York by a wealthy CEO, Theresa (Moore), who is thinking about donating a substantial amount of money to Isabel’s charity. Theresa’s daughter is getting married this weekend and she invites Isabel to the wedding. It’s there Isabel sees Theresa’s husband (Billy Crudup), who Isabel has a long, very complicated history with, and from here on out we are off to the races with twists and turns and revelations – and it’s all so over the top, but I somehow found myself relating. Which is very weird.
After the movie, I was talking to a colleague and I mentioned that a lot After the Wedding hit home for me. He looked at me like I was nuts. Without getting into too many private details about my life, let’s just say the idea of finding out about a father lying about a secret relative isn’t something that sounds that outlandish to me anymore, even though it is pretty outlandish.