Seen: On my laptop, streamed from netflix instant.
Even though I personally don't want to get married and think the institution itself is kind of fucked up, for some reason I have always enjoyed movies about weddings. There's always room for melodrama and family jokes and pretty dresses and sexy happenings, it seems. Despite its title, Muriel's Wedding is not actually all about a wedding. Rather, it follows the adventures of Muriel (Toni Collette), a desperately romantic twentysomething who believes that getting married is the only way she can prove she has value. After stealing money from her asshole politician father (Bill Hunter), Muriel escapes to Sydney with her one friend Rhonda (Rachel Griffiths). Putting her compulsive lying skills to good use, she starts a new life and tries to become a new person. She hopes to eventually find love- or at the very least someone willing to marry her-, but her family eventually catches up to her.
With a self-deprecating wit and surprisingly touching relationships, Muriel's Wedding wasn't quite what I expected. It's funny and a little offbeat, but also really dark. I loved Toni Collette's performance, watching her transform from this dead-eyed oddball to a confident, mature young woman who doesn't need to lie in bed listening to Abba songs all day if she doesn't want to. At first I was bummed that the protagonist was so wedding-crazed, but it becomes clear that this really speaks to her cripplingly low self-esteem that blossomed under her tyrannical father. Rachel Griffiths is a great counterpoint as Rhonda, an energetic, outgoing gal pal who doesn't take shit from anyone but finds her world shattered due to medical problems.
The narrative is somewhat uneven, but it definitely kept me on my toes as I could not predict how the story would progress. It fuses small-town humor and family dysfunction with coming-of-age (sort of) and unexpected romance. And best of all, the ultimate theme is the power of friendship! Yay! Before that there's a lot of depression, though. Like, I was getting teary. I think ultimately what appeals to me about Muriel's Wedding is that it felt very realistic- of course there are some over the top moments and unlikely scenarios, but the characters, the interactions, and plot developments all felt true. It's not trying to be a laugh-out-loud comedy or a tearjerker drama, it's just trying to tell a story, and so the emotional impact is heightened by how real these characters seem.
Pair This Movie With: I think this needs another story of a lady trying to escape her overbearing family to find out what kind of life she wants to lead for herself. Desperately Seeking Susan, Penelope, and New Waterford Girl all came to mind.