Monthly Archives: November 2019

After the Weddings

In a reality where people seeking life advice can find advice columns, confessional blog posts and vlogs, and then be pleasantly surprised that they aren’t alone in their confusion, misery, or helplessness, maybe the number of original fictional stories is quite small.  Between literature, films, and even songs that inspire other forms of art to official remakes, it shouldn’t come as a shock that different people can have the same struggles.  Whereas a retelling pair such as Sabrina (1954, 1995) leaves an unfulfilling taste in the mouth, the remake exercise in After the Wedding is successful.

Susanne Bier‘s original of the same name came out thirteen years before the Bart Freundlich‘s filmic mirror image (2019).


Although I admire the talent and have liked many of the films that Michelle Williams, Billy Crudup, and Julianne Moore have been in over the years, because I had seen and loved the original first, I was reluctant to see the remake — thirteen years is not a long time to make a film again (especially one that wasn’t a disaster and starred Mads Mikkelsen).  I decided to give the American version a try because I really, really wanted to buy a DVD when I was at Barnes and Noble over the weekend.

The storyline of both films is nearly identical: in order to secure funding, the manager of an orphanage in India must fly to the headquarters of a company willing to donate a considerable sum of money.  Professional and personal boundaries mix awkwardly as the manager and the donor discover they are much closer than they could have imagined.  The manager and donor are male characters in Bier’s film (played respectively by Mads Mikkelsen and Rolf Lassgard); they are female characters in Freundlich’s film (portrayed respectively by Michelle Williams and Julianne Moore).  The donor’s spouse (a wife [Sidse Babett Knudsen] in the original and a husband [Billy Crudup] in the remake) and a daughter constitute the details behind some of the secrets that surface — the film’s title refers to what happens after the daughter gets married.

The bones and breath of both films are essentially mirror images of each other.  The blood and muscle differ in nuanced ways that offer complementary perspectives on how certain decisions made by a mother and a father can impact the other people in their lives. If there are seminars in film school on how to do a remake and not mess it up, both After the Weddings should be included in the curriculum.

An unexpected observation I made while watching the American version and re-watching the Danish one is that both Julianne Moore and Mads Mikkelsen are flawless in making me believe that they are whatever occupation their character has.  Moore has been among many things a housewife, a pornstar, a high school teacher, a forensic psychiatrist, a gynecologist, a linguistics professor, and a media mogul in After the Wedding.  Mikkelsen has been among many things a butcher, a husband, a drug pusher, one of King Arthur’s men, a Bond villain, Igor Stravinsky, a psychologist with an exotic palette, and the manager of an orphanage in After the Wedding.  I would believe either of them in any job, which to me is part of good acting.  It’s not just about exhibiting the character’s body language or saying the lines well — it’s about envisioning the actor being or doing what this character is and does everyday.

Matt Damon and Chewing Gum

Matt Damon does a lot of gum-chewing in James Mangold‘s newest film Ford v Ferrari (2019). When he’s not dealing with Josh Lucas‘s nonsense or trying to convince Christian Bale to calm down, Damon is chewing gum. In his portrayal of Carroll Shelby alongside Christian Bale’s Ken Miles, Matt Damon proves that he has come a long way from playing a math genius and a killer secret agent.

I did not know much about the film’s premise beyond it being based on real events. The main cast alone was reason enough for me to want to watch it. It’s definitely worth a movie theatre screening, even though it is 2.5 hours long and actually feels it. The chemistry between Matt Damon and Christian Bale keeps the non-racing scenes engrossing. One of my favorite scenes doesn’t involve racing…nor a car. This scene occurs when Matt Damon is telling Christian Bale about Ford’s intentions to build a race car to compete at Le Mans and that he should go to Ford’s new Mustang unveiling the next day.

The two men are in a diner and contrary to most dialogue pieces that take place in this setting, where the characters have just received their food and talk as they eat, this conversation happens after Christian Bale is already done eating and Matt Damon is picking at the last of his meal. He eats a bite of bread and some potato chips. Minimal risk of continuity errors relating to mastication. There’s another great scene where the two wrestle on a patch of grass.  It’s not a long scene but it’s worth the admission price.


Diner scene; pic cred: IMDB/Twentieth Century Fox


In addition to witnessing the strong chemistry between the film’s two leads, I appreciated the way in which Ford v Ferrari presents the speed at which a car can go as both beautiful and destructive.  Outside the context of a proper race, a car that is going too fast is dangerous and not at all desired.  But within the confines of a legitimate race?  Speed is an adrenaline-thumping wonder of physics to behold.

Here’s James Mangold talking about the start of the climactic race.


The Ascending Star

In all likelihood, she would not self-identify as a star…or a starlet.  She has never exuded ingenue hues to be that young thing in everything.  Critical and popular opinion may have latched on to the assessment that she only ever portrayed extensions of her introverted, moody, non-conformist persona.  Some may have instantly dismissed her performative abilities because the media text that made her a house-hold name was based on a young adult fiction franchise.  Even when the subtleties of her acting talents were more broadly recognized as a Personal Shopper (Olivier Assayas, 2016), print and digital publications were arguably more motivated to pay attention to her movements vis-a-vis her paramours than her visual media projects.  As a new decade is right around the corner, though, it would be difficult not to notice the steadily evolving brightness that has been surfacing from within her unconventional artistry.

The first time I knew Kristen Stewart existed was from the film Speak (Jessica Sharzer, 2004), which was adapted from the Laurie Halse Anderson novel of the same name.  There was a quiet determination about her that resonated with me and compelled me to rent that DVD from Blockbuster multiple times until I finally decided to buy it.  From those repeat viewings to now, I’ve seen the majority of her films.  I’ve subjectively enjoyed nearly every one that came out before TwilightAdventureland (Greg Mottola, 2009) and Welcome to the Rileys (Jake Scott, 2010) stood out to me among the films interlaced with the release of those vampire movies.  Clouds of Sils Maria (Olivier Assayas, 2016), Certain Women (Kelly Reichardt, 2016), Personal Shopper, and the newest Charlie’s Angels (Elizabeth Banks, 2019) have been the best cinematic experiences to me post-Twilight.

Kristen Stewart as Melinda Sordino in Speak


I haven’t been inspired to write a proper post on this blog for years until after I had just finished watching Charlie’s Angels.  I had forgotten how much fun a movie could be to watch at the theatre [I had a good time at Parasite (Bong Joon-Ho, 2019) a week ago, but it also reminded me of how deeply bittersweet and cynical of a mindset a film can leave a person (and I didn’t want to feel cynical)].  Elizabeth Banks’s Charlie’s Angels is funny, takes itself seriously while also being self-aware, and features Kristen Stewart at her most rambunctiously confident and humorous.  I am fully aware that I am biased because I loved watching her in films from her pre-Hollywood stardom era, so I prioritized emotional investment over critical analysis.