On the surface, Muriel’s Wedding seems like any other romantic comedy. You’ve got a sheltered young girl dreaming about her perfect wedding and trying to make it happen. The characters and situations are familiar but this is where differences start popping up. First of all, all the rest of the romcoms feel somehow safe and sanitized when compared to this one. Here, everything is right in the open. There are no hidden messages or secret signals. The opening scene makes sure you realize that.
And this type of approach prompts you to watch on even if this sort of thing is not your favorite genre. Muriel’s Wedding is actually a very subversive movie that turns on its head everything that a modern rom-com should be. I mean, we live in a tribal system of values where you are defined by the role you play in that society. And that role is defined by certain milestones you must achieve. Milestones that propel to the “next level” of the game. The truth is much, much more complex and to reduce it these simple explanations is utterly ridiculous. However, that’s what’s been happening for centuries and centuries.
I will spare you the usual rant and just move on to performances. Of course, the star of Muriel’s Wedding is Toni Collette. She gave one hell of performance along with Rachel Griffiths. I mean, that grin on her face is fucking unforgettable. It captures all the joy and honesty of the character without coming off as cringy. I also must mention Jeanie Drynan as Betty as I kept remembering her blank stare for weeks and weeks afterward. The character development is simply superb. All of them feel like real people, with flaws and virtues.
Today is the day that Tania has been waiting for all her life. She’s finally getting married to Chook, a handsome young man eager to start a family with her. Muriel Heslop is also at the wedding. She’s one of Tania’s friends, a socially awkward girl who can’t wait to find the man of her dreams. She hasn’t had much luck lately. All of that, however, is going to change when she decides to take a vacation on a romantic island full of potential bachelors.
Muriel’s Wedding focuses on a very sensitive and intense period in a young woman’s life. A period that’s especially difficult for someone who has low self-esteem. And if that someone happens to be living in a small town, well then… However, this is not just a movie about one girl but also about her family and the society we live in. It’s a story about finding freedom and your own voice in this cacophony that is our society.
And to make things even better there are loads of black humor. Sometimes the situations are just bizarre in themselves and you just need the camera to record them in order for them to be funny. Finally, if you’re looking for something similar, I recommend you check out The Castle, a more traditional comedy. Also, if you’re in the mood for something a bit heavier, Once Were Warriors from neighboring New Zealand is a great choice. However, Little Miss Sunshine might be your safest bet also starring Toni Collette.
P.S. If anything you’ve seen in this movie feels familiar, just know that you’re not alone and that the world is much larger than you think it is. Stay calm, formulate a plan and wait for your opportunity. You will feel it and even if you miss the first one, the second one will come. And even if it never comes, the only thing you have to do is fight, the rest is out of your control. I would add refuse and resist but that’s just me.
Director: P.J. Hogan
Writer: P.J. Hogan
Cast: Toni Collette, Rachel Griffiths, Bill Hunter, Pippa Grandison, Jeanie Drynan, Dan Wyllie, Daniel Lapaine
Fun Facts: Toni Collette gained 40 pounds in 7 weeks with the help of a dietitian for this role.