Buy it on Amazon.
CONSUMER WARNING: One of the best films I’ve ever seen has just been remade — and it looks to be the worst movie I’ll never see. It’s a vanity project — the director is Julianne Moore’s husband — with a cast that could fool you into seeing it. And the idea of the remake is just so now: Take the genders and flip them. The rich male benefactor is now a woman. Cue the tears.
The first review digs the grave for this fiasco:
“Though technically a film, with all of its corresponding qualities, ‘After The Wedding’ primarily exists as an actor’s showcase for its main quartet. Director Bart Freundlich creates a space for his players—Michelle Williams, his wife, Julianne Moore, Billy Crudup, and relative newcomer Abby Quinn—to exhibit their skills in scenes specifically designed to spotlight their craft. Each of them receives a handful of close-ups, with many, if not most, lit to catch tears brimming in their eyes…. In the not-so-distant future, After The Wedding will likely be used as a teaching tool by low-rent acting classes across the nation.”
The good news: This disaster prods me to send you to the original. Greatness awaits. Go there.
The first time I saw “After the Wedding,” I didn’t see all of it — like just about everyone else in that theater, for the entire last half hour I was afflicted by a bout of silent sobbing that wouldn’t quit.
I cherish that amazing, unforgettable experience: several hundred people weeping together.
And then — I’m not spoiling the movie here — came a “happy ending” that is perhaps the most satisfying conclusion of any film I’ve seen in a decade.
Satisfying because the characters earned it. There was a huge price for each of them to pay, and they stepped up to it. They earned the right to better. And, because you have lived their struggles with them, you leave the movie with the kind of satisfaction that no studio-financed, movie-by-committee-and-focus-group can give you. [To buy the DVD of “After the Wedding” from Amazon, click here. To rent or buy the video stream, click here.]
On a low budget, with no-name actors and a less sensitive script, “After the Wedding” would be right at home on Lifetime. Consider the plot. Jacob, a Dane in his 30s, works in an orphanage in India. He hasn’t been home in 20 years, and that’s just fine with him. Bad news: The orphanage is running out of money. Good news: Jørgen, a philanthropist, wants to write the large check that will save it. On one condition: He wants to meet the recipient. The woman who runs the orphanage can’t go. Well, Jørgen is Danish, Jacob is Danish. Jacob should go.
Reluctantly, Jacob flies to Denmark. Jørgen listens to his pitch for only a few minutes before seeming to lose interest — it’s the weekend of his daughter’s wedding. To which Jacob should come. It’s not, after all, like he has anything else to do.
At the wedding, the first surprise: Helene, Jørgen’s wife, was once Jacob’s lover. (Does she look familiar? If you watched Borgen, you know that Sidse Babett Knudsen — the Meryl Streep of Scandinavia — plays the first female Prime Minister of Denmark.)
Helene was the lover who broke Jacob’s heart. The lover who sent him scurrying off to India, an orphan hiding among orphans.
Other surprises: I’ll spare you. And encourage you to read not a word more about the story — let the twists and turns sear you as they roll out. But I’ll go this far: The rich and poor, the white and the colored, Europeans and Indians — the moral lessons are so easy, aren’t they? Or are they? Is Jacob’s moral purity really an emblem of superiority? Is Jørgen’s privileged life a sign of a rotting soul? You’ll judge — you can’t help it — but when it’s over….
When it’s over, you’ll want to thank director Susanne Bier, a Danish filmmaker whose most recent success is “The Night Manager.” Mads Mikkelsen — who plays Jacob (and was the villain in “Casino Royale”) — will make you forget all other young actors; he’s not only shockingly handsome, he can make reticence and distance both intimate and compelling. And Jørgen, played by Rolf Lassgård — when the film ends, you’ll find yourself replaying his performance to take note of all that you missed. And was there ever a trophy wife as radiant, loving and thoughtful as Helene (Sidse Babett Knudsen)?
“After the Wedding” was Denmark’s entry for Best Foreign Language Film at the 2007 Academy Awards. It lost to the German film, “The Lives of Others.” I would have voted differently. (The Academy did in 2011. Bier’s next film, “In a Better World,” won the Oscar for Best Foreign Film. Read the Butler rave here.)
There are movies you stream, and you think that you got the amusement you paid for. But sometimes, very rarely, there are movies that stay with you, that you want to press on someone you love and say, “Here. This. A life-changer.” That, in every possible way, is “After the Wedding.”
This article originally appeared on The Head Butler.
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