Muriel's Wedding focus's on young Muriel Helop (Toni Colette) who resides in the small out of the way town of Porpoise Spit; she sits alone in her room listening to the songs of Abba, and dreaming of a better life when she is married. The problem is however that she has never had a boyfriend; and her social standing isn't the greatest among her so called bitchy friends.
Eventually she finds herself cruelly shunned by them; and her dysfunctional home life with her domineering father (Bill Hunter) doesn't help matters. Stealing some money she runs way, with fate bringing her together with former classmate and fellow outcast Rhonda Epinstalk; (Rachel Griffith) which proves to be a life changing encounter.
An unexpected sleeper hit on it's 1994 theatrical release; raking $15.7 million at the domestic box office, and $57.5 million on a modest $9 million budget; Muriel's Wedding was the archetypal; Ugly Duckling story which had been told many times before. This is figuratively speaking really, for when it's all said and done the titular Muriel as portrayed by the then hitherto unknown Toni Collette was, and still is far from unattractive to this day. Having gained 40lb in just 7 weeks which marked her dedication to the role which brought her to international attention; it did nothing to rob her of the radiance that would occasionally seep through her dowdy facade.
It's hardly revelatory that she should be so, given the clear genetic weight gain from her even more frumpy overweight sister; (Gabby Millgate) and to her emotionally troubled mother who has the seemingly burdensome task of also having to take care of the rest Muriel's male and female siblings. It would be a lie say that her family is not dysfunctional; and it's not made any easier by her overbearing father; Bill Heslop with veteran actor; Bill Hunter stepping effectively in to the role of a boorish local counsel-man with political ambitions beyond his meagre talents. A man who routinely passes the buck for his shortcomings onto his put upon family; it's difficult not to have any sympathy for them.
However; in terms of Muriel's personal issues, they're compounded even further by the clique of mean-spirited, self-centred "popular girls. Vain and egocentric to the point of toxicity; they grind poor Muriel to emotional breaking point when (and it's no real spoiler) they pitilessly cast her aside. It' a a genuinely heartbreaking moment and Director; P.J. Hogan (who would inevitably cross the Atlantic to direct the exceedingly unremarkable, 2003 cinematic version of; Peter Pan) who also scripted the film, showcases his aptitude for characterization and setting a scene; brings them and the scenario marvelously to life, as he does the rest of the supporting players.
It all of course serves as the impetus behind our disheartened heroine and is the key driving force by her irrevocable quest for change and acceptance. And in comes Rachel Griffith's as the sassy, unconstrained Rhonda Epinstack, a former classmate who fate should deem it necessary to cross her figurative path. This marked another breakout performance which would eventually see Griffith like her leading lady head for the bright lights of Hollywood, featuring in movies like; My Best Friends Wedding, Blow and the hit cable TV series; Six Feet Under. Somewhat in your face she may be as a character; but it's a quality that serves her well as there is a genuine, bona fide person behind the brassy exterior. What you see is what you get and her no nonsense, forthright nature is what necessitates anchoring the misguided Muriel in reality.
Most of her scenes with Rhonda showcase some of the highlights of the movie; whether it be from them performing an Abba tribute act together at the sunny holiday resort where they met, to a night out on the town where the two young ladies go on a night out on the town; with Muriel dragging along her date; the shy, unassuming Brice Nobes (Matt Day). A young parking inspector with whom Muriel caught his eye in the video store she is now employed in. It culminates with an amusing romantic tryst back at her and Rhonda's flat which the bashful young man won't forget in a hurry.
But for all the comedy; there is a significant dose of bitter-sweet drama which underpins the lighter moments. There's Muriel's predilection for being economical with the truth and the fact that she defrauding of her own parents, the latter knack for theft being something she inherited all too well it may seem from her troubled mother; and the lengths she goes to for acceptance from her bitchy former "friends"; as well as her father's self absorbed pretensions, and an unavoidable test of friendship for her that comes right out of left field; all make for a mostly sublime tonal balancing act which writer/director Hogan skillfully pulls off.
Admittedly it's a movie with themes that haven't been tackled before; and the cynic in me might think that certain aspects as it comes in to it's final act may descend a bit too much in to the absurd as out what with our young heroine exhibiting her love for Abba in a comically theatrical moment of tawdry showiness. But it does does work for the most part and when it needs to it and does really pull at the heartstrings with profound effectiveness. Boasting some superb performances with nary a foot being put wrong it stands up against the similarly themed; Australian hit Strictly Ballroom although it would never be a patch on the wonderful; Priscilla Queen of the Desert.
Action / Comedy / Drama / Romance
Action / Comedy / Drama / Romance
Muriel finds life in Porpoise Spit, Australia dull and spends her days alone in her room listening to Abba music and dreaming of her wedding day. Slight problem, Muriel has never had a date. Then she steals some money to go on a tropical vacation, meets a wacky friend, changes her name to Mariel, and turns her world upside down.
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September 28, 2013 at 11:11 AM