Film Review: AFTER THE WEDDING (USA 2019) ***

After the Wedding Poster

A manager of an orphanage in Kolkata travels to New York to meet a benefactor.


Bart Freundlich


Susanne Bier (original screenplay), Bart Freundlich | 1 more credit »

AFTER THE WEDDING is the 2006 Best Foreign Film Oscar nominee that put Danish filmmaker Susanne Bier on the moviemaking map.  As the film was released way back when, it has been more than 10 years since Julianne Moore initiated the remake and many will hardly remember anything abut the original  movie, expect that it was really good.  And that’s a good thing.  The plot revelations in the film are what keeps the film both interesting and engrossing.

In the original film, the protagonist played by Mads Mikkelsen is a Dane working in India at an orphanage before traveling back to Copenhagen to secure funds from a wealthy entrepreneur who happens to have a hidden agenda.  In the new version the gender roles are switched.  Isabel (Michelle Williams) is an American transplant who has devoted her life to running a Calcutta orphanage.  Just as funds are drying up, she is contacted by a potential donor , Theresa (Julianne Moore) who insists that Isabel must travel to New York (replacing Copenhagen) to make a presentation in person.  Once in New York, Isabel lands in the sight line of Theresa, a multi-millionaire media mogul who seems to have a perfect life – from the glittering skyscraper where she runs her business, to the glorious Oyster Bay estate, where she lives with her artist husband (Billy Crudup), about-to-be married daughter (Abby Quinn) and younger twin sons.  While Isabel thinks she’ll soon be returning to the orphanage, Theresa has other plans for Isabel. 

The less said about the film’s story the better, as the revelations of the plot would spoil  the film’s entertainment.

Both what is a marvellous about this version are the performances by the two female leads.  Williams is the best, acting through her eyes and mannerisms, and obviously stealing the limelight from Moore.  Moore, understandably gives herself some major lines to dramatize when she, realizing that she is going to die screams that she wants to live.  This is reminiscent of the Jill Clayburgh scene in Daryl Duke’s GRIFFIN AND PHOENIX where she and Peter Falk played lovers who were both dying of terminal illness but finally happy in love.  Clayburgh’s character screams and cries: “Life is so unfair!!”

In the film there is a segment where the females Isabel and her daughter (Abby Quinn) bond together in a moment of distress.  Again, this is right out of Alfonso Curaron’s ROMA where the major line was uttered by the mistress to the maid, when pregnant thought she was going to be fired (by her mistress) but only to be told: “We women have to stick together.”

AFTER THE WEDDING is so immaculately shot n almost too perfect India (with a huge outdoor pool for washing that seems to clean of authenticity) and an orphanage looking too perfect with a perfectly organized wedding where all the speeches are delivered spot-on perfect are examples.  Imperfections occur in real life.



Movie Reviews

Directed by Ryan Murphy

Cast: Julia Roberts, Javier Bardem, Viola Davis, Billy Crudup, Richard Jenkins, Viola Davis, Ali Khan
Review by Joshua Starnes


Happily married Elizabeth Gilbert (Roberts) takes a right turn in her life by enduring a painful divorce and proceeding to take a round-the-world journey of self-enlightenment and fulfillment.


Do you know what the most interesting thing in the world to you is? You. Do you know what the least interesting thing in the world to anyone else is? You.

That’s not entirely true because people have relationships and empathy, but I think we can safely call it 95% true. So how do you get around that problem in a story that is essentially about you? As an author or filmmaker you can either make your ‘you’ stand-in so likeable and/or universal that everyone else sees themselves in it and goes along for the ride out of shared experience. Or you can make your stand-in such a vehicle for ridiculous wish fulfillment that everyone else comes along to pretend the have the shared experience.

A lot of movies like “Eat Pray Love” like to pretend to themselves they’re the first kind of story, without realizing (or actively) ignoring the fact they are the second, resulting in something that is simultaneously preachy and shallow, which is about as aggravating as it sounds. Try imagining one of the ‘Real Housewives’ of wherever explaining to you what you need to do reach spiritual enlightenment. Well, maybe not that shallow but certainly that immature.


Liz (Julia Roberts) isn’t happy with life. She doesn’t know why, she just is. She married her goofball husband (Billy Crudup) too early to realize that wasn’t what she wanted and the affair she has with a young actor (James Franco) doesn’t make things any clearer. Her only solution is to check out of life: travel to several countries (all beginning with the all important letter I) so that she can spend some time focusing on herself and what it is she really wants.

The thing is what Liz really wants is to be 20 again, with the wonderful expanse of life ahead of her and none of the cynical realizations of maturity to keep her from enjoying it. If that sounds really, really hard to relate to, it is. Liz maybe the most unlikeable character Julia Roberts has ever had to play, not because co-writer/director Ryan Murphy (“Glee”) is trying to make her so (and eventually redeem her) but because everything the film does pushes her in that direction.

I suspect that’s because his eye is less on his characters than it is on the loving, beautiful travelogue he has put together of Italy and Indonesia and India. Especially Italy. Sure, it’s the part of the movie that’s supposed to be about giving in to physical pleasures as a real thing not to feel guilty about, but it also seems to be the only part of the movie anyone making it really understands because it’s the only part that doesn’t pretend to be more than it is. I swear to God, they spent longer lovingly lighting the spaghetti under Robert Richardson’s watchful eye than they did trying figure out why on Earth anyone would ever like Liz.

However as it moves into its spiritual journey, with Liz embracing her inner ashram in India and her attempt to balance the competing desires of her heart of India, “Eat Pray Love” reveals itself to be the con man it is. It knows people want to have their cake and eat it too, and it’s going to do its best to give it to them, while spinning just enough spiritual platitudes to make sure you’re not really paying attention to the smoke and mirrors.

After a year of discovering herself Liz literally runs into a dashing Brazilian ex-pat (Javier Bardem) in Bali with all the finesse of a Harlequin romance and has to wonder if it was all for naught and all she really needed was someone else to make her happy after all. It’s the sort of thing people rake “Sex and the City” over the coals for but at least they had the honesty to be up front about it.

There are some descent supporting performances scattered in “Eat Pray Love” from Richard Jenkin’s sloganeering Texas pilgrim to Viola Davis as Liz’s publisher and one and only model of sanity in the world. But they’re not enough to turn the tide that is all, all about Liz.

“Eat Pray Love” is the shallowest of shallow wish fulfillment, which wouldn’t be so obnoxious if it wasn’t trying to gussy itself up with the clothing of enlightenment. But maybe I’m the one who’s cynical. If I met the supermodel of my dreams on a beach in Bali, I’d probably get over any personal problems I had, too.


Film Review: ALIEN: COVENANT (USA 2017) ***1/2

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alien_coventent.jpgThe crew of a colony ship, bound for a remote planet, discover an uncharted paradise with a threat beyond their imagination, and must attempt a harrowing escape.

Director: Ridley Scott

Stars: Michael Fassbender, Katherine Waterston, Billy Crudup, Danny McBride

Review by Gilbert Seah

ALIEN helmer Ridley Scott (he directed two of the series) proves that at the age of 80, he still has it. The latest ALIEN called ALIEN: COVENANT the second of the prequel before the first ALIEN movie and the sequel to the last PROMETHEUS shows Scott in top form. ALIEN COVENANT is far superior to copycat space horror films like the recent LIFE and PASSENGER. ALIEN: COVENANT is the real thing – with real horrors in the abyss of space that will keep one at the edge of the seat watching face clingers and torso busters (called more mildly face huggers and chest bursters in the film).

The film begins with a short flashback showing Peter Weyland (Guy Pearce) while he is still alive; he addresses a synthetic android (Michael Fassbender) who would become part of the Prometheus expedition. Weyland asks the android to select a name for himself and the android selects ‘David’ as his preferred name.

The film moves to the present which is 2104. The crew of the colony ship Covenant is bound for a remote planet with two thousand colonists and a thousand embryos aboard. While en route to their destination, an energy surge damages the ship, killing its captain and waking the crew. As they repair the ship, the crew intercept a radio transmission from a nearby planet and decide to investigate as the transmission is human in origin but the planet is supposedly lifeless. This is when the horror begins.

The first ALIEN film was panned by the critics with the critic at Time Magazine calling it a bastard movie, a cross between STAR WARS and JAWS. One can see why. Like JAWS, the first sight of the alien occurs almost a third into the movie just as the first sight of the shark was never seen till half of the film elapsed – a Hitchcock trait (best example: THE BIRDS). But once the monsters starts bursting out of the victim’s bodies – watch out ! Sound effects, special effects and all the horror instruments filmmakers use are perfectly combined to scare the hell out of audiences and for a fairly lengthy interval of time at that. PASSENGER never achieved that level of effect while LIFE imitated a few of the scares. The alien clinging on the outside of the spaceship as it strives to enter the ship, is seen in both LIFE and COVENANT. There are more characters in COVENANT than in any of the past ALIEN Films or in LIFE and PASSENGER resulting in more grisly deaths as well.

COVENANT is neatly tied in to PROMETHEUS though the audience need not know much about the original film. The film also contains an intricate enough plot, with a sufficient twist at the end, brilliant for the fact that the audience is supposed to guess it.

The only complaint is of the film being a bit confusing, though the confusion can be sorted out with a bit of reflection. One is the use of actor Fassbender to play the two androids David and Walter. The other is the flashback at the start of the film, which is not clearly conveyed to the audience as a flashback. When Fassbender appears on the ship, one assumes he is David, but he is actually Walter. Another disarray arises with the large number of crew suddenly descending on the planet as the film only showed a handful of humans awakened from their slumber.

Scott still uses the gimmicks of the past ALIEN films to ensure the film’s success. Katherine Waterston as Daniels, a terraforming expert looks like a younger Sigourney Weaver, especially in her sweat-soaked undergarments. The sight of the alien eggs before hatching still looks as eerie as before. A few new additions are added like the bath scene (looking almost pornographic) which is comical in a way as the alien strikes like a snake-like creature.

ALIEN: COVENANT returns the franchise to its roots and to what works. Fans and audiences would shriek in delight!



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Happy Birthday: Billy Crudup

billycrudup.jpgHappy Birthday actor Billy Crudup

Born: July 8, 1968 in Manhasset, New York, USA

MFA in Acting – New York University, Tisch School of the Arts (1994).

Once worked as an historical interpreter at Roanoke Island Festival Park, in Manteo, NC.

In 2007, he won a Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a Play for his performance in “The Coast of Utopia”.


Eat Pray Love
dir. Ryan Murphy
Julia Roberts
Javier Bardem
dir JJ Abrams
Tom Cruise
Philip Seymour Hoffman
dir. Snyder
Billy Crudup
Carla Gugino
SwingersAlmost Famous
dir. by Cameron Crowe
Billy Crudup
Public Enemies
dir. Michael Mann
Johnny Depp
Christian Bale
dir. Stephen Frears
Billy Crudup
Woody Harrelson
dir. Akiva Schaffer
Ben Stiller
Vince Vaughn
dir. Woody Allen
Drew Barrymore
Goldie Hawn
dir. Robert DeNiro
Matt Damon
Angelina Jolie