Review by Steve Rhodes
3 stars out of 4
MURIEL'S WEDDING is an Australian film that tries to be both a
comedy and a tragedy. Most shows that attempt this fail miserably
because they keep pulling their punches and can not decide what they
want to be. Muriel's Wedding on the other hand is a success at both.
I laughed out loud at the funny parts, and I got upset and concerned at
This is the classic ugly duckling fable retold for our generation
and given a different and imaginative development. So often in this
show, you would think you can predict it, and it surprises you. Our
ugly duckling is Muriel Heslop from Porpoise pit, Australia. The
names alert the viewer from the beginning that this is a scriptwriter
who is willing to go out on a limb with his material. In fact, the
script by P. J. Hogan, who also directed the movie, is the second
best part of the show.
There is great dialog through out the show. One of my favorites
is when Muriel's "friends" tell her to get lost since they can not be
seen with her. Muriel explains that, "I know I am not normal, but I am
working on it. I can change. I can. I can." The unprintable sexual
banter and joking among the young women, I found absolutely hilarious.
The best part of the movie has to be the incredible performance of
Toni Collette as the large boned, fairly homely, socially inept, and
not too bright Muriel. Muriel had a singular desire in life and that
was to get married since nobody thought she could. In fact the movie
opens with her getting the wedding bouquet in the traditional toss.
Her friends demand she give it back since she has no chance of finding
anyone to marry her and hence she should throw it to one of them.
Solid logic in their book.
I found Collette's version of simple-mindedness more convincing
than that of Tom Hanks as Forrest Gump. Gump was cartoon character
heroic. Muriel is more like somebody you knew in High School and
either ignored or felt sorry for. You may find yourself hunting up all
of those old wallflowers at the next High School reunion and trying to
get to know them for the first time. This show really makes you think
about life and about how shy and ostensibly ugly people are treated.
Some of my favorite scenes of her were when she got so happy she
started laughing uncontrollably as in her first romantic encounter.
Her happiness was infectious; I felt instantly giddy. Muriel had such
a great way of expressing herself. She said that when she was lonely
she used to stay in her room all day long listening to ABBA music and
now that she was happy she felt that her life was an ABBA song.
The interesting parts of the show do not stop here. The whole
Heslop family is highly dysfunctional. Most appear to have low IQs,
all are overweight, and they are all lazy with the exception of Dad who
treats his whole family like dirt. He is a local politician and
wheeler-dealer who worries that his family is a curse on his career.
Dad is played by Bill Hunter who was also good in STRICTLY
BALLROOM--which is definitely worth seeking out in the dusty corner of
your local video store. Her mother (Jeannie Drynan) is so out of it,
she spends time staring at the cup with the tea bag in it going round
and round in the microwave.
Although their roles were all one dimensional, I loved the
performances by the actresses who played the ditsy young women Muriel
hung around with in the first of the movie. Their pancake makeup with
the glossy light colored lipstick and the 1970s hairdos really said it
all. These women thought they were still the hot stuff they were in
high school. They made fun of Muriel because she listened to 70s music
when they were more out of touch than she was.
I have no criticisms of the movie. For what it tried to be, I
think it hit the nail on the head. Although we are not talking about
comedy on the level of TOOTSIE or tragedy on the level of ORDINARY
PEOPLE, MURIEL'S WEDDING, nevertheless, is a special movie.
MURIEL'S WEDDING runs a well edited 1:45. It is rated R for one
scene of brief male nudity, some profanity, and very explicit
discussion of sex. It is almost a PG-13 show and would be fine for any
teenager. I recommend the show to everyone above the age of 12, and I
award it ***.
REVIEWED WRITTEN ON: March 24, 1995
Copyright © 1995 Steve Rhodes