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'After the Wedding': Family Secrets Ensnare Julianne Moore and Michelle Williams

Dazzling actors with nine previous Oscar nominations make a soap-opera story soar

Rating: PG-13

Run time: 1 hour 50 minutes

Stars: Julianne Moore, Michelle Williams, Billy Crudup, Abby Quinn

Director: Bart Freundlich

Julianne Moore, 58, is on a roll remaking acclaimed foreign films. This spring, she delivered a bravura performance as a divorcée rediscovering her sexual freedom in Gloria Bell, director Sebastián Lelio's Americanization of his 2013 Chilean art house hit Gloria. Now she shines in a gender-switch reboot of After the Wedding, director Susanne Bier's Oscar-nominated 2006 Danish drama.

This one's directed by Bart Freundlich, 49, Moore's real-life husband and her previous collaborator on films like The Myth of Fingerprints and Trust the Man. Clearly, she does trust the man — she should. He guides her to her most shattering turn since her Oscar-winning work as a woman with early-onset Alzheimer's in 2014's Still Alice.

In After the Wedding, Moore stars as Theresa, a wealthy entrepreneur stepping down from her company and considering making a major donation to an orphanage in India, where a fellow American, Isabel (Michelle Williams, 38), works. Theresa mysteriously insists on flying Isabel across the globe to Manhattan to meet with her in person as part of her vetting process.

It's not a spoiler to reveal that Theresa has an ulterior motive in wanting to get to know Isabel. Or that it involves Theresa's husband Oscar (Billy Crudup, 51), who also worked with Moore and Freundlich on the 2001 drama World Traveler.

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The title After the Wedding refers to the nuptials of Theresa and Oscar's daughter, Grace (Abby Quinn, a promising newcomer). Isabel finds herself invited to the ceremony, at which point life-altering secrets begin to be unraveled.

So many dramatic twists follow that After the Wedding at times borders on soap opera. Moore has the necessary experience: she won a Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Ingenue in a Drama Series for her 1985-88 dual role as half-sisters on the now-defunct NBC soap Another World, which could serve as a fitting title for After the Wedding as well.

Yet the cast consistently elevates the material to its highest possible level. Williams, who just received an Emmy nomination for physically and emotionally morphing into Gwen Verdon in FX's excellent Fosse/Verdon, is characteristically stunning as a woman forced to confront a past that drove her as far from home as she could get. And Crudup, who's been flying just under the radar of stardom ever since his rock-star turn in 2000's aptly titled Almost Famous, continues to be an actor of rare subtlety and nuance.

As with almost any wedding, one would be wise to bring tissues to this affair. But After the Wedding isn't a manipulative tearjerker — it earns its sobs. Seek out this sleeper in theaters, where it deserves to be seen.

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