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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Where do you go and to whom do you turn, when it's time to emerge from
adolescence and get on with your life, but you find yourself incapacitated
from having had your self esteem methodically peeled away year after
miserable year by a brutal father who has convinced you that you're worth
less than a piece of garbage a dog wouldn't touch? That's the story of
Muriel Heslop (Toni Collette), a young woman who, along with her brothers
and sisters, has been mercilessly and ceaselessly denigrated and publicly
humiliated by her father, Bill Heslop (Bill Hunter), seemingly since the day
she was born, in `Muriel's Wedding,' directed by P.J. Hogan. Bill Heslop is
a local councilman in the less-than-thriving city of Porpoise Point,
Australia. In the eyes of those who don't know him, he's a great man, a
hero even; and he's definitely a legend in his own mind. But in his own
home he doles out psychological abuse relentlessly-- and the sad thing is,
he does it seemingly without realizing what he's doing. Muriel, out of
school, but so unsure of herself that she's unable to wrench herself free of
the dominating Mr. Heslop, escapes into a world of ABBA songs and daydreams
of her own wedding, which she perceives as being the ultimate reward-- the
thing that will finally bring her happiness and give her life meaning.
Not surprisingly, Muriel has some problems to work out before she can even think of making a change that will turn her life around. Her lack of self esteem has rendered her socially inept, overweight, slow witted and incapable of making a decision. And as far as the wedding that will change everything-- well, Muriel has no boyfriend, never has had one, and there are certainly no prospects on the horizon. Her dream of being ABBA's `Dancing Queen,' is about as remote as pigs that can fly. Muriel does have friends, however; four girls she knows from school, one of whom just got married, into whose lives she basically imposes herself in a last ditch effort to find acceptance any way she can. Then one night, even they tell her not to come around them anymore, that she is an embarrassment. And for Muriel, it's the final straw that drives her to do something desperate. Something that will ultimately change her life forever.
That it is billed as an `Hilarious comedy about friends, fun and unexpected surprises' and `Hysterically funny,' makes you wonder about the marketing machinery of the entertainment industry. Is it a funny movie? Yes, it is; just as life is often funny, even when it's at it's worst. Hilarious? Yes. All of which seems contradictory to the story that is at the heart of the film. And yet, it's those very contradictions, those same multi-layered complexities of which life is made, that makes this such a wonderful movie. On one hand, Bill Heslop is one of the most despicable characters you'll ever encounter in a film; and on the other, Muriel is one of the most sympathetic. The humor of this film is derived from the natural and very real situations in which the characters find themselves. And just as there is something within us all that at times allows us to laugh at the misfortunes of others (perhaps occasionally born of a `better you than me' mentality), there are things you're going to laugh at in this film. But as you sit back and watch as one misery upon another is heaped upon Muriel, you'd have to be either an unfeeling person or a sociopath not to be crying at least on the inside, even if you're laughing on the outside. There are times when you just want to reach out to Muriel and let her know that one way or another, everything is going to be okay.
Toni Collette (in her second film) gives an incredibly moving performance as Muriel, making her about as real as a character can get. She conveys so much through her body language and facial expressions alone, that you can feel the torment and the turmoil she keeps bottled up and buried deep within herself, without ever having to hear her speak a word. Anyone who's ever known even a moment of misfortune in their life will be able to relate to her. Unwittingly, she wears her feelings on her sleeve; not that she wants to, but when your cup of adversity finally overflows, it's going to show. And it takes a special actor to play a character like this and make her so convincing, without taking it over the top or into the gray planes of melodrama. And Collette is that actor. She's perfect in this role, and she had to be for this film to work. Anything less than a perfect counterpoint to the character of Bill Heslop would've quickly derailed this project, and the humor alone wouldn't have done the job. All of the tricks, jokes and funny lines in the world wouldn't have been enough to overcome that very real sense of loathing Bill Hunter brings to the role of Heslop.
The supporting cast includes Rachel Griffiths (Rhonda), Sophie Lee (Tania), Rosalind Hammond (Cheryl), Belinda Jarrett (Janine), Pippa Grandison (Nicole), Jeanie Drynan (exceptionally effective as Betty, Muriel's mother) and Daniel Lapaine (David). In one of the most uplifting scenes you're ever likely to see in a movie, Muriel and Rhonda lip-sync to ABBA's `Waterloo,' which in the screenplay probably came across as something fun but rather insignificant in the grand scheme of things. But on the screen, it becomes a moment that is absolutely transporting. And that's the magic of `Muriel's Wedding.' It takes you into the dark, but never allows you to languish there; ultimately, it takes you into the light, and when it does, it's brighter than anything you could imagine. I rate this one 10/10.
A dark comedy it is but it really touches the heart and it can be quite
sad at times. There are many levels that you can watch this movie on
and many do say there is a superficialness to it. However, there are
core human elements that clearly ring through in this movie.
Friendship, compassion, empathy. Toni Colette and Rachel Griffths both
make this movie stellar. It is heartbreaking at times to watch Muriel
(Collette) wanting to be someone of value. Her feelings are so true to
her heart and I am sure many can relate. Griffith's character is
portrayed with such humor and honesty. She also has some of the
funniest lines I have heard in a movie in a long time.
Please watch this! It does offer meaning and you certainly can't go wrong with the music of ABBA!
You gotta love the Hollywood marketing hacks. "Outrageously
stand up and.....cheer!" Did they even watch the movie? Or was this a
cynical ploy to try to make "Muriel's Wedding" into a more commercially
Either way, the marketing for this great little movie deserves an award for Most Misleading. In misrepresenting "Muriel," they reduced it to a fun "chick flick" in the minds of people who hadn't yet seen it. It's so much better than that.
A few years back, my then-girlfriend begged for this on one of our trips to Blockbuster, so I gave in, resigned to a night of gritting my teeth through a silly, formula-written, semi-feminist movie about a couple girls who have fun while getting even with their boyfriends or finally landing the big job or whatever the ending was gonna be.
Well, I was FLOORED by what "Muriel's Wedding" was, as well as what it wasn't.
The film is profoundly psychological and satirical. The person who sees Muriel, powerfully played by Toni Collette, and cannot empathize with her is a heartless, brainless schmuck indeed. Collette's performance and writer/director PJ Hogan's screenplay take Muriel through pretty much the whole range of emotion. Much of this emotion is negative, and it's really painful (but beautiful) to watch at several points. To watch Muriel's harrowing journey toward self-acceptance is to relive painful moments in your past, whether you are a man or a woman.
"Muriel" is also FULL of satire. It has a lot to say about marriage and family life, and little of it is good, although I believe it leaves plenty of room for redemption for Muriel and her abusive father (well-played by Bill Hunter).
"Muriel's Wedding" isn't a perfect movie, though it's pretty damned close. The scenes of Rhonda's and Muriel's life in Sydney, in particular, seem rather episodic, without strong threads to bind them. But this is almost quibbling with a great, great film.
That's the way "Muriel's Wedding" is. It affords you no escape, if that's what you are looking for. I think that's why most people are so p***ed off about it. They want to be entertained, not depressed by a film that has to do with real life. Well, I can't be too hard on these folks. It's really the marketing department's fault for their false advertising.
But if you want to see a very powerful film and are willing be really touched by a it, then see "Muriel's Wedding."
Muriel's Wedding is a feel good movie for the outcasts of the world. That
means most people of course. At some time in our lives we all feel like
one who is left out of everything. Muriel's life is like that. Her
"friends" put her down constantly and her father reinforces it by telling
her how useless she (and every other member of her family) is while
his own ego by bragging about his connections.
There is no life in Porpoise Spit for Muriel. So after a couple of catastrophic embarassments and a chance meeting with an old school chum and fellow outcast she moves to Sydney. There she reinvents herself and discovers that despite what has been said about her and some pretty bad things she has done she is still a good person. Muriel stumbles on the way but finally frees herself (as does her mother) from the oppression of her hometown, her father, and her life.
Muriel isn't a totally likeable character. She steals, lies, and at one point does a perfectly terrible thing to her only friend. In the end however, Muriel recognizes that despite her shortcoming, physical and spiritual, she isn't the worthless creature her classmates and father have told her she is. To the credit of the filmmaker's they didn't do a complete remake of Muriel in the film to make her a beauty at the end. She gets a better hair cut but for the most part the improvement on her looks comes from within.
Muriel's father on the other hand is a completely despicable man. A local politician who tries to impress everybody with his connections he also put considerable effort into the degradation of his wife and children. His motto, the same as the town of Porpoise Spit, is "You Can't Stop Progress" but he manages to stop the progress of everyone in his family except for Muriel.
This is a very enjoyable film and a good example of the idea that a movie doesn't have to be a big Hollywood production to be great. I'm glad that it was produced in Australia. If it had been done in France then Hollywood would have done a remake in English and probably ruined it.
i still remember joining the neighbors to go to the movies to see a
new Australian film that noone knew much about, except that it featured
the music of abba...just as i still remember walking out of the cinema
aglow with such immense joy.
this is a wonderful film, that begins with a shy, needy, shrinking-violet girl and ends with a strong, honest woman aware of her own power to change and control the world around her. this film is full of laughs, full of smiles and, towards the crescendo of the last few minutes even full of tears. one can't help but want to stand up and cheer, or dance, or both, as muriel escapes everything that her 'life' has pushed on her and rides into the sunset, with such happiness radiating from her face.
"you're terrible, muriel..." she is, and you can't help but love her for it. see this movie!
a fat girl with an obsessive/compulsive dream of marriage + her
grotesque family + her shallowest of the shallow "so called" friends +
her cheeky & crazy sidekick and the music of ABBA. How could any movie
sound more irritating? But, uh-huh, it's not.
What makes this movie "unique" is the performance of Toni Collette and the thin line between the protagonist/antagonist qualifications of the characters. You can not just like them or hate them because you can not decide where to put them in your personal moral scale. Although the story itself is pathetically sad, the film could still make the audience laugh out loud in some specific scenes.
I believe this film is one of the pioneers of 90's indie movies and obviously it has given great inspiration to the newcomers of "Ecole Sundance".
Toni Collette wants to have "Muriel's Wedding" in this 1994 Australian
film, directed and written by P.J. Hogan. Muriel is a social outcast
living with her dysfunctional family and fantasizing about a better
life for herself, as exemplified in Abba music. She wants the
excitement the music has, the fun, the prettiness, the glamor. Most of
all, she wants a fabulous wedding. Her dreadful father (Bill Hunter)
constantly puts her down and constantly elevates himself. He's a
councilman. He asks a friend, Deirdre, who has a cosmetics company like
Mary Kay, to give Muriel work. He gives Muriel a blank check so she can
buy what she needs and start selling. Muriel takes the blank check to
the bank, cleans out her father's bank account and heads for a resort
where four girls from the "in crowd" - who don't want Muriel around -
have gone. There she meets Rhonda (Rachel Griffiths) and starts to have
some of the fun she's dreamed about. From there, she moves to Sydney
and takes a job in a video store, rooming with Rhonda.
All of Muriel's dreams eventually come true, but she loses what makes her special and what she has always devalued - herself.
This is such a splendid film, made all the more magnificent by the performance of one of the truly great actresses of this century, Toni Collette. Collette belongs right up there with Streep, Helen Mirren and Cate Blanchette. She's not there because she's a character actress who disappears into her roles so that she's unrecognizable from film to film. Here she embodies Muriel - overweight, badly dressed, with low self-esteem who, in the process of finding out who she is, emerges as an attractive person who knows what's important and what it is she really wants.
"Muriel's Wedding" is not a raucous comedy. It has many layers - ridiculous characters, such as her supposed vain friends, and then it turns around and gives you a complicated character like Rhonda, who loves life and lives it with complete abandon until tragedy strikes. Griffiths gives a beautiful performance. Hunter, the man we loved to hate in "Strictly Ballroom," is even more hateful here, but in the end, seems to have learned his lessons too.
Muriel learns what we all learn - life isn't what goes on on the outside, it's what happens inside. What's valuable isn't the wedding dress and all the pomp, but the souls and love involved and the real meaning of marriage. Then you're a Dancing Queen and you can really feel joy.
Such a great film, made possible by Collette and Hogan's excellent script and direction. Don't miss it.
The film has a biting satiric edge to it & offers a refreshingly unsentimental, non-judgmental portrait of a young woman deemed a loser by both "friends" and family. Toni Collette is magnificent as Muriel, capturing the character's wide range of emotions, from the oblivious to the gushingly enthusiastic. Collette is solidly paired with Rachel Griffith; the two come across as long-time buddies. The open-faced surrealistic sarcasm of the film is in key places undermined by melodramatic tragedies (reminding me of the turkey "Terms of Endearment"), but at least these solemn moments are treated in an un-Hollywood, non-mawkish fashion. This is a fascinating, memorable film.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Yes, guilty as charged - I am a huge ABBA Fan. And while that was
certainly one of this movie's prime attractions, I do think 'Muriel's
Wedding' is one of the best movies I've ever seen! Muriel's character
is very identifiable... We all go through the same insecurities, phases
of demoralization at some nor some point of our lives. Played with
disarming honesty by Toni Collette, Muriel is snubbed by her so-called
"friends" who call her an "embarrassment" because of her weight and
because she listens to ABBA. Muriel's idea of getting back at those who
snubbed her is to get a guy to marry her. This she manages quite
successfully by roping in the perpetually sulking National swimmer who
wants a wife merely as a tag.
Muriel gets back at her "friends" but at the cost of nearly losing her real friendship with Rwanda(excellently portrayed by Rachel Griffiths). Her mother's suicide compounds to her sense of futility and she gracefully separates from her husband to return to Sydney and get her life back together, caring for Rwanda, now wheel-chair ridden and making a living without all those superficial aspirations she dreamt of and the vain people whose companionship she so much wanted. This is a great romantic comedy with the kind of emotional honesty not often in movies of the genre. It deals with issues of self-esteem and the universal need for love and friendship and yes, it has great music! But of course!
"Muriel's Wedding" is all about a young Aussie woman who bears the scars of a dysfunctional family as she sets out in life in search of happiness. Very much an Aussie film, rough as a day old beard but with a heart of gold and a visceral sense of humor, "MW" is one of those few movies which can accurately be called a "gem". Buoyant, coarse, and poignant, "MW" tells a story of personal conquest as we watch a courageous Muriel struggle with low self esteem from patriarchal abuse while looking for love in all the wrong places. A roller coaster ride with a feel good ending for anyone into movies with morals and/or Aussie films. (B+)
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