First Hit: In this film, a challenging and complex situation unfolds through fantastic acting.
Isabel (Michelle Williams) is the co-founder of an orphanage in India. She very fond of the school, children, and organization. She is especially attached to a young boy Jai (Vir Pachisia) who appears to be a bit hyper and possibly having some attention disorder. This is wonderfully portrayed when Isabel, leading a meditation of the orphanage’s children, opens her eyes to see Jai lying on his back looking at the sky and waving his hands around. She lies down next to him and then says he can ring the bell to end the mediation. He is very enthusiastic ringing the bell and because the other children affectionately laugh, we know he is loved by them – he’s not an outsider.
The story then moves to New York where we find Oscar (Billy Crudup) finalizing a sculpture exhibit of his work, while his wife Theresa (Julianne Moore) is hard at work, making decisions, speaking with lawyers, and appears to be finalizing a deal to sell her large media company.
They have a daughter named Grace (Abby Quinn) who is young and with an impending wedding is nervous.
Reluctantly Isabel goes to New York because she’s been asked by a benefactor to come to New York to meet them in person to obtain a substantive amount of money to support her orphanage. When she gets to New York, we (and Isabel) finds out that Theresa is the benefactor. Their first meeting is slightly contentious because Isabel doesn’t think she needs to be in New York and Theresa seems a bit non-committal. To learn more about Isabel, Theresa invites Isabel to Grace’s wedding at their home.
Arriving at the wedding slightly late, Isabel is shocked to see that the father of the bride is Oscar, someone she had a previous history with.
The audience is getting some inkling that something is up and when Oscar gives a toast talking about how Grace helped him select Theresa as his wife.
But was this set up? Did Theresa know what she was doing when she brought Isabel to New York? Does Grace really know her history? How will Oscar explain to Grace’s past to her? Why did Theresa set this all up?
Lots of questions and the excellent acting make this complicated situation come together rather well.
Williams was excellent although there seemed to be darkness around her through the entire film. Part of me felt as though this was because of a decision she made many years ago or was Isabel’s character a bit sad, cynical and dark unless she was around the orphanage? Moore was solid as the highly motivated media company owner. She’s always on the phone, pushing through her agenda. There’s a sense of something underlying her drive to sell the business. Crudup is outstanding as Theresa’s husband and Grace’s father. There are a creative strength and vulnerability he shows that makes his character work. Quinn is good as Grace. She’s a little whiny about her nervousness of getting married, and I’m not sure why this was needed. Pachisia is perfect as the young orphan, to whom, Isabel is emotionally connected. Susanne Bier, Bart Freundlich, and Anders Thomas Jensen wrote the screenplay. It is an interesting story, and for me, because I adopted my daughter, I felt a deep connection to the story. Freundlich also directed his story. I liked many of the sets; specifically the hotel and office spaces.
Overall: I thought this was an extremely well-acted story.