Tuesday, June 14, 2022

Thoughts from After “After the Wedding”


The Tony Awards, celebrating the best of an up-and-down Broadway season, gave 5 statuettes to a revival of Stephen Sondheim’s Company that flips the gender of key roles, turning Bobby into Bobbie and transforming Amy, the reluctant bride, into Jamie, a reluctant (gay) groom. The switch, made with Sondheim’s blessing and participation, adds new dimension to a show that originally debuted in 1970. I’ve discovered that something of the same switcheroo happened in 2019 when a Danish Oscar nominee from 2006 was turned into an American family drama, written and directed by Bart Freundlich. Because Freundlich has long been married to  actress Julianne Moore, it was perhaps natural for him to find a way to star his talented spouse in this project. But it’s also true that the gender switch seems to have enriched the story, perhaps making a sappy situation a bit more interesting.

 A caveat: I never saw the Danish original, in which a man (the talented Mads Mikkelsen)  returns to his home nation from an orphanage he’s founded in India, only to discover himself face to face with the now-grown child he left behind, as well as the adoptive father who has a secret reason for courting his friendship. Perhaps if I’d watched this much-admired movie, I would have been indignant about the way the story was changed for American audiences. But, knowing nothing of the Danish plot, I completely accepted the fact that an ethereal but ultimately strong young American woman (beautifully played by Michelle Williams) would give up the baby she bore as a teenager, then find spiritual joy in nurturing a passel of orphans in far-off Tamil Nadu. It’s a slow-moving drama, and so there’s a good half hour before she meets with Julianne Moore, the hard-charging New York executive who may be on the verge of giving her orphanage major funding and who surprises her with a last-minute invitation to her daughter Grace’s lavish nuptials.

 It's at that wedding that the pieces start coming together. When Isabel, the visitor from India, first sees Oscar (Billy Crudup), the father of the bride, she realizes – as do we -- that he’s her long-ago love, the one who had agreed with her on putting their newborn up for adoption. But the twists, artfully prepared for, keep on coming. As the fragile young bride, Grace, deals with the fact that the mother she thought had died long ago is suddenly here in the flesh, Moore’s character is keeping some secrets of her own.

 A man skipping out on a pregnancy, as in the Danish version, is of course not NEW news. I was intrigued by how Michelle Williams’ performance makes it credible that a woman would relinquish a baby, and then reveal burgeoning—though complex—maternal feeling both toward her Indian orphans and her own adult child. And Moore’s turn as a tough-minded, all-hands-on-deck CEO (one married to a gentle, artistic man) may seem at first like a feminist caricature, but we ultimately discover she has unexpected depths. I also want to give a shout-out to the young woman playing the third crucial female role, that of the barely adult daughter who loves her parents and her new husband, but has probably married much too soon. Abby Quinn is a new name to me, but she’s one to watch. (She also sings, and co-stars in what’s been called a country-music horror film, Torn Hearts, released just weeks ago.)

 In a world where men’s stories seem to predominate, both on stage and on screen, it’s refreshing to see women get a chance to shine.


  1. Hiya, Thought your comment on the ultra-level of Nora’s “on the side” psychosis was hilarious. Thanks. Bobonymous

  2. I'm always glad to be hilarious, but you've got to credit Nora and her biographer for including this gem.