Muriel’s Wedding (1994)

68.

★★★

Directed by: P.J. Hogan
Written by: P.J. Hogan
Starring: Toni Collette, Rachel Griffiths and Bill Hunter

While the comedic quirks of this Aussie classic deserve a rain of confetti and applause, the more serious and dark twists of its plot feel largely out of place and loosely tied to the story as a whole. Starring Toni Collette as an ABBA-loving 22 year old, hell-bent on getting hitched, Muriel’s Wedding is a golden-oldie Australian film that is memorable and fun despite having several shortcomings in structure and plot.

Bring back the Nineties.

Muriel (Collette) – 22, single, a little overweight, and socially awkward – deeply believes that marriage is the key to happiness. Without a job, or the help of good looks, Muriel is cast out by her married friends and her overbearing father, who insists she do something with her life other than sit around the house, listening to ABBA and staring at her mural of wedding dress designs. Rescued by an old high school classmate, Rhonda (Griffiths), Muriel moves to Sydney in search of a new life, only to realize that her insecurities and family rifts follow her wherever she goes – married or not married.

For the most part, Muriel’s Wedding is a feel-good movie. With the convincing portrayal of an outcast-loser-nobody – so likeable in her geeky and goofy ways – Muriel’s Wedding shines through Collette’s performance, positively bouncing off other notable cast members like Rachel Griffiths. Throw an ABBA soundtrack on top of this, and you’ll fall in love.

The sharp turn Muriel’s Wedding takes into divorce, illness, and marriages of convenience, however, seem to emotionally jar against the comedy that seems so light-hearted and innocent in the first two acts. It’s almost as though P.J. Hogan tries to insert depth into Muriel’s story by reaching out to typical tragedies, because the plight of a 22 year old lacking in confidence and happiness is not enough to make a film of substance. Instead, the effect is a film that tries to pack in too many tears and laughs at strange intervals. One minute you’re feeling pretty upbeat. Next minute you’re depressed. Welcome to manic-depression.

How Muriel learns to overcome her personal insecurities, and the the ultimate climax of the film, are a little disappointing as a result – the events surrounding Muriel occurring with no sense of reasoning or logic. They merely play convenient roles in resolving the wide array of problems that fall in Muriel’s lap.

Comic, distinctly Australian, and impressive in performances, Muriel’s Wedding is enjoyable, but not without its flaws.

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