Michelle Williams, Julianne Moore come up flat in drama that never ignites

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The characters in "After the Wedding" have an awful lot of emotional baggage to unpack, but curiously little of it translates on screen. 

And that's despite the pairing of Michelle Williams and Julianne Moore, a powerhouse acting duo who could make a gender-flipped production of "Dude, Where's My Car?" compelling. Here, the sparks never arrive, even as the script keeps rolling out big twists like it's handing out candy to trick-or-treaters. 

Williams plays Isabel, a co-founder of an orphanage in India who travels to New York to secure a $2 million donation from a wealthy benefactor, Theresa (Moore).

Theresa is rushed and doesn't have time to hear Isabel's pitch. So she invites her to her daughter's wedding, which is a completely normal thing to do, except that it's not normal at all. 

At the wedding, Isabel learns the truth of why she was brought to New York in the first place, one of several major contrivances in the story by co-writer and director Bart Freundlich, who based his film on Susanne Bier's 2006 original film. 

The surprises involve Theresa's artist husband, Oscar (Billy Crudup) and their daughter, Grace (Abby Quinn). The fact that Theresa chose Grace's wedding day of all days to pull back the curtain puts her in the running for World's Worst Mom (and World's Worst Wife, to boot). 

Character judgments aside, "After the Wedding" wants emotional fireworks but comes up with duds. A breakdown from Moore's character rings hollow, and Williams' character keeps an icy distance that never thaws. Add in a few choppy edits and "After the Wedding" just isn't worth the RSVP. 

'After the Wedding'

GRADE: C

Rated PG-13: for thematic material and some strong language

Running time: 112 minutes

agraham@detroitnews.com

@grahamorama

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