Monday, August 19, 2013

Muriel's Wedding

Muriel's Wedding; grotesque/ drama, Australia, 1994; D: P. J. Hogan, S: Toni Collette, Rachel Griffiths, Bill Hunter, Sophie Lee

Muriel is ugly, unemployed, single and has no friends after even her high school acquaintances tell her to stay away from them. However, she still daydreams of a wedding. Her two brothers and a sister are equally unsuccessful and on the lower social hierarchy. One day, Muriel takes a blank check from her father Bill, a semi-politician who did not manage to enter into the government, and decides to spend thousands of dollars on a vacation. She meets a girl from high school again, Rhonda, and together they escape to Sydney to start a new life. Finding a job in a video store, Muriel meets a guy, but her first sex in interrupted. Rhonda is diagnosed with cancer and bound to a wheelchair, yet Muriel manages to covertly find a husband - David, a swimmer from South Africa who needs the Australian citizenship. They divorce, and Muriel takes Rhonda back to Sydney to again try it a new.

One of the most hyped and heard about Australian movies from the 90s, "Muriel's Wedding" is a messy, chaotic, but honest ode to losers and outsiders who also want to achieve their dream, no matter how more difficult they are than usual. P.J. Hogan crafts an untypical-shrill blend between grotesque and sad drama, with some better and some lesser, 'rough' results - the most problematic aspect is the blatant way it is shown how everyone bullies Muriel, which trips too often in the territory of "make the viewers hate the bad guy(s), no matter how cheap and no matter the method". One example is the dinner with guests where the father, Bill, publicly calls Muriel useless because she cannot find a job as a secretary because she "can't even type". It is more than far fetched that a father would talk precisely about such a topic in front of a business meeting. The same goes when the mean girls tell Muriel not to go on an island because they will be vacationing there. When Muriel does go to that island, regardless, the girls spot her and angrily throw a drink into her face. Entirely overreacting and not quite convincing of a set-up for future events. One of the few subtle examples of insulting is when they say to Muriel that they do not want to be friends with her, and tell her she should "find friends on her own level", which is so sly and clever that it would have sufficed the story without the two above mentioned sequences. The movie is carried entirely by the brilliant Toni Collette, who was nominated for a Golden Globe as best actress in a musical or comedy and keeps her character convincing for every second, especially in the quietly hilarious sequence involving Muriel's wedding with the unwilling David - the look on his face on the aisle is priceless. Hogan must also be congratulated for having the courage to avoid a happy ending and present the rather open one, whereas the soundtrack is crammed with some of the finest ABBA songs.


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