Synopsis: No one ever paid much attention to Muriel and her humdrum small-town life, so she and her best friend, Rhonda decide to leave it behind and head for the big city … where they end up having the exciting adventure of their lives!
Stars: Toni Collette, Rachel Griffiths, Bill Hunter, Jeanie Drynan, Sophie Lee
Director: P.J. Hogan
Running Length: 106 minutes
TMMM Score: (8/10)
Review: I still remember being taken to Muriel’s Wedding by my mom at the old Centennial Lakes theater back in 1994. I’m not entirely sure why we saw it, at 14 my taste in film was still developing and I probably was leaning toward popular cinema with little knowledge of anything else. In ’94 the art-house circuit was just achieving mainstream status and for several years it seemed like every movie that came to the Uptown/Lagoon were must sees. Muriel’s Wedding was right on the cusp of that, taking the indie film even further by showcasing the rising Australian film market and introducing now well respected actresses like Collette and Griffiths to US audiences. I’ll never forget the audience in the tiny theater absolutely exploding with delight at several key sequences of the film.
Delightfully skewed, a bit tacky, and uproariously funny…this is one wedding that you don’t mind revisiting time and time again. Collette was pretty much robbed of an Oscar nomination for her work here. While Holly Hunter’s performance in The Piano was a shoo-in for the Oscar that year I could easily have seen Collette sneak in over a few of the other nominees on the ballot. What’s so wonderful about her performance is that for every injustice Muriel suffers or brings on herself you never once look down on her…she gives a heart and soul to the girl least likely to succeed. You become her support system as she faces her Mean Girl friends and her dysfunctional family of eccentrics. Griffiths doesn’t arrive for a while but it’s clear from the moment she does that she’s here to change Muriel’s life and our little picture. Their duet to ABBA’s Waterloo is staged with an elaborate panache of comedy that still delivers after multiple repeated viewings. There is a cavalcade of strange people on display here and I’ve yet to see a picture that has matched it, casting-wise.
Some have remarked that the happy and boisterous first half of the movie is in stark contrast to some heavy melancholy introduced late in the film. Such is life, my friends, such is life. While it may take a few sharp left turns on you, the movie wraps itself up nicely paving the road for our characters to take on the next chapter of their lives. I admit that I long hoped for a sequel to this but looking back now I can’t imagine how that would have served anyone involved. The journey this band of rude mechanicals goes on is a singular one and both they (and the audience) come out the other end changed in the way that movies are supposed to change us. I’ve never left this film feeling uninspired or sad…if anything it lifts me up and establishes a feeling of empowerment to face any challenge that’s around the bend.