Contrived Convention

In a Sundance relationship-drama wannabe, when a parental figure promises not to miss a tyke’s birthday bash, you damn well know they’re missing that party.

AKA: After the Wedding in a nutshell. For a movie so steeped in matters of the heart, it never shakes the feeling that we’re watching concoctions of a writer, too detached to resonate because it fails to utilize the expressive capacity of artifice to compensate.

Compared to the other family relationship drama in theaters right now, there’s an animated vitality to Where’d You Go, Bernadette missing from the largely lifeless and monotonous After the Wedding. Sure, Bernadette has tonal issues of its own, but give me erratic swings over this Wedding‘s consistent sluggishness any day of the week.

The latter’s muted aesthetic might be deliberate, in an intentional juxtaposition with the soap opera elements, a commentary on the dissonance between the simple, placid surfaces of our lives, and the repressed, suppressed, simmering, multifaceted truths of our inner beings; our exteriors can be understood to be strewn with the sort of fictions that After the Wedding‘s brand of fictional art is uniquely positioned to probe. Despite this thematic justification, as executed here, its style is passively unengaging, and actively tempers the potential effect of the High Drama and Misdemeanors, an emotional distance that negates the movie’s ultimate attempt to veer into tearjerking territory.

Only one moment comes close to igniting the theatrical fireworks of the melodrama it could’ve been: Michelle Williams and Julianne Moore‘s climactic tête-à-tête. In the words of movies as clichéd as After the Wedding: too little, too late.

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