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Classic movie: Muriel's Wedding

2009-09-10 10:28

Muriel Heslop is the very realistic 'everyman' character who sets out trying to change people's perceptions of her, and ends up changing herself to fit their social moulds. In her attempts, she eventually not only succeeds at rising above her c*ck-sucking friends, namely Tania, Janine, and Nicole, but shows them up as the laughable, inflatable barbies they are. Yay for the underdog!

The first thing that smacks you between the eyes is that our leading lady is, well, I'm going to say it – ugly. Muriel is a social outcast extraordinaire. You can't really blame it all on her though – just take a look at her family! Her mum Betty is a depressed kleptomaniac, her dad Bill is a selfish politician and her siblings Joanie, Perry, Penny and Malcolm are just plain useless. It's no surprise that Muriel had bigger-than-her-body dreams about getting married and leaving behind her boring life in Porpoise Spit, Australia.

As much as Toni Collette owns the screen as Muriel, the music, the milieu and the supporting cast all contribute to her unique character. ABBA plays a pivotal role in Muriel's life, and the movie. Seeing the joy in her eyes when she and Rhonda (Rachel Griffiths) perform Waterloo at the holiday resort is both heartwarming and heartbreaking. This is the most exciting thing that's ever happened to Muriel.

Yet, things can only get better.  When Muriel discovers her parents know she stole the money to go on holiday, she moves to Sydney with Rhonda to start her new life as Mariel. Mariel is offered the opportunity to realise all of Muriel's big wedding dreams when she accepts money in exchange for marrying David Van Arckle, a gorgeous South African swimmer who needs citizenship to compete in the Olympics. David is played by Daniel Lapaine, with a very laughable South African accent. Then again, very few non-South Africans have ever been able to mimic a local. But he's hot, so who cares, right?

Rachel Griffiths is superb as the fun-loving, smart-mouthed Rhonda. Everyone needs a friend like Rhonda. Pity she dropped the Australian accent when she moved to Hollywood – it's adorable!

When her big day arrives, Mariel's happiness is radiant. She truly believes that this is the pinnacle of success and she's "shown them that [she's] as good as they are". She truly believes that a wedding equals a happy life and relationship. As fake as it, you can't bare to take it away from her.

This is the ultimate anti-wedding movie with a picture-perfect anti-hero. Muriel's Wedding is such a feel-good film because we all feel like her sometimes. While there is so much to dislike about Muriel, all you really want is for her not to dislike herself so much. The media preaches about self-acceptance and celebrating your 'uniqueness', but then idolises beauty and uniformity. Before Ugly Betty, there was Muriel. A victim of social culture maybe? Or of her own mind? Whatever it is, Muriel always gave it her best shot.

If ever you needed a reason to enter that beauty contest, take that job, or ditch those friends, look to Muriel. She's been there, done that and got the wedding dress.

Trivia (from imdb.com):

* Toni Collette gained 40 pounds in 7 weeks with the help of a dietitian for this role.

* Bill Hunter, who plays Bill Heslop, was filming The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert and Muriel's Wedding at the same time, each requiring him to have different length hair, beard and to be in different parts of the country. Both films developed international cult followings and prominently featured the music of ABBA.

* While Muriel and Rhonda are singing "Waterloo", Tania and Nicole get into a knockdown fight and the entire table is disrupted, but when we cut back to Muriel and Rhonda singing, you can see the back of the girls' heads as if they are still sitting, and their dates are standing enjoying the show as they were before.


[Janine to Muriel after she catches the bouquet]
Janine: What's the use of you having it Muriel? No one's ever going to marry you. You've never even had a boyfriend.

[Rhonda sees Tania and the girls at the holiday resort]
Rhonda: Tania! What a fantastic surprise.
Tania: I don't believe it. I haven't seen you since Porpoise Spit High.
Rhonda: How are you?
Tania: Married.
Rhonda: Muriel told me. Turkey.
Tania: Chook.
Rhonda: Chook. That's right. Well, congratulations!
Tania: Come and have a drink with us.
Rhonda: Really? You want to have a drink with me?
Tania: Well, we can't let you spend the entire holiday alone. We're not in school in school anymore Rhonda. You don't have to feel you're not good enough for us now.
Rhonda: I don't.
Tania: If I feel you've changed I'll tell you. I'm honest. Unlike some people, I tell the truth.
Rhonda: The truth?
Tania: Yes.
Rhonda: I tell the truth too. Nicole's having an affair with Chook. Muriel saw them ***king in the laundry on your wedding day. Stick your drink up your ass Tania. I would rather swallow razor blades than drink with you. Oh, by the way. I'm not alone. I'm with Muriel.

[Muriel to Rhonda]
Muriel: When I lived in Porpoise Spit, I'd just stay in my room for hours and listen to ABBA songs. Sometimes I'd stay in there all day. But since I've met you and moved to Sydney, I haven't listened to one ABBA song. It's because now my life's as good as an ABBA song. It's as good as 'Dancing Queen'.

[After the wedding, David and Mariel go back to his apartment]
David: What kind of person marries someone they don't know?
Muriel: You did.
David: But I want to win. All my life I've wanted to win.
Muriel: Me too.

[After Rhonda and Muriel leave for the 2nd time to Sydney]
Tania: Who do you think you are to call me that? I'm married. I'm beautiful!

In a world obsessed with celebrity and status, Muriel's Wedding reminds us that the seemingly ordinary subjects are still the most interesting.

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