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Muriel's Wedding is an Australian comedy written and directed by P.J. Hogan (My Best Friends Wedding, Confessions of a Shopaholic), starring Toni Collette (The Sixth Sense, United States of Tara) as the title character. The film was released in Australia in 1994, where it received widespread critical acclaim before its theatrical release in the U.S. in 1995. The film is notable as being the first major international hit for its director, star, and costar Rachel Griffiths (Six Feet Under, Brothers and Sisters).
Muriel Heslop (Toni Collette) is a socially inept young woman who lives in the small Australian resort town of Porpoise Spit with her shut-in siblings, mentally unstable mother and emotionally abusive father (city councilman Bill Heslop, played by veteran actor Bill Hunter.) Unemployed and recently ostracized from her group of stuck-up friends, Muriel has begun to feel trapped in her life as a "nobody" and unable to fulfill her life-long dream of having the perfect wedding. Muriel jumps at the chance to impress her friends by following them to a tropical resort -- a vacation that has been financed by Muriel stealing several thousand dollars from her father's bank account.
At the resort Muriel is further derided and rejected by her former friends, however her trip ends on a positive note after she meets Rhonda (Rachel Griffiths), a wild former classmate from Porpoise Spit. In an effort to impress Rhonda, Muriel tells her that she is engaged, and at the resort to have one last fling. Not eager to return home and face her father, Muriel impulsively chooses to move to Sydney, where she becomes room-mates with Rhonda. Deciding to completely re-invent herself (even to the point of changing her name to 'Mariel'), Muriel gets a job at a video-store and begins to pursue her dreams. Soon, however, her lies and her past begin to catch up with her, and Muriel is forced to face the person she truly is in order to grow into the person she wishes to become.
Muriel's Wedding is a charmingly funny look at the life of a young woman with low sense of self-worth, and the trials and tribulations she faces on her journey of personal growth. While a comedy at heart, the film does not shy away from a frank portrayal of serious family and emotional issues. The film, its director, and its actors have received numerous awards and nominations, both in Australia and internationally.
This film contains examples of:
- Abusive Parents -- Bill Heslop, who takes every occasion to lament about how worthless his children are... right in front of them. In public.
- Alpha Bitch: Tania.
Tania: Who do you think you are to call me that? I'm married! I'm beautiful!
- Bouquet Toss -- The film starts with a dramatic slow-motion bouquet toss, which Muriel catches. Since everyone expects that she will be the last woman to ever get married, her snotty "friends" demand she re-toss it to someone else.
- Calling the Old Man Out
- Chaste Hero -- Muriel, though not by choice.
- Citizenship Marriage -- Muriel is so desperate to get married that she even answers an advertisement to enter into a marriage of convenience to a South African who wants to join the Australian Olympic Swim Team. It works out about as well as you'd expect.
- Cloudcuckoolander -- Bettie Heslop. It's implied she has some sort of mild mental problem
- Completely Missing the Point: Near the end of the film, Tania's husband Chook has been arrested for raping a Japanese tourist. Tania thinks it's ridiculous, because Chook hates the Japanese.
- Cultural Cringe -- Subverted, as this Australian Film received world-wide financial success and widespread critical accolades.
- The Danza -- Bill Heslop played by Bill Hunter.
- Driven to Suicide -- Muriel's mother.
- Heterosexual Life Partners: Muriel and Rhonda, although they have their rough patches during the movie.
- It's amazing what a new hairdo and actually, you know, smiling does for Muriel's looks when she gets to Sydney.
- Toni Collette mentioned in an interview that it only took her 7 weeks to gain the weight, but nearly 9 months to lose it once filming was finished.
- "I Want" Song -- In her most depressed moments, Muriel will pop a tape into her cassette player and sing along to one of the myriad of ABBA songs featured in the movie. (Usually Dancing Queen, though, for Muriel, any ABBA song will do.)
- Not So Different: Tania holds a grudge against Rose Biggs for fellating Tania's husband Chook, on their wedding day. However, by the end of the film, Tania and Rose are apparently on good terms again. Why? Tania fellated Rose's husband, and realized that Rose isn't so different from Tania and the rest of her clique. Which later prompts Rhonda to say, "And you three--what a bunch of cocksuckers." Which made Tania and her friends react pretty much the way you'd expect.
- Otaku -- Muriel, for both weddings and ABBA
- Really Gets Around -- Rhonda.
- Sleazy Politician -- Bill Heslop, who has spent most of his political career positioning himself to get kickbacks for building projects as a local councilman in Porpoise Spit, also makes a habit of cheating on his wife and emotionally abusing his kids.