This is one of these movies that apparently everyone has seen, but has not deeply spread through the general consciousness. I, in fact, did not know that a) it took place in Australia, and b) it starred Toni Collette. That’s weird, because those are both the sort of thing I generally do know.

Early 90s Australia–as evidenced by this movie and by Strictly Ballroom–is a place that is brightly colored but rather dirty, and badly stuck in the 80s. Muriel (Ms. Collette) is out of work, out of favor with friends and family, and generally out of countenance. She lives in a town evocatively called “Porpoise Spit,” and listens to way too much ABBA. Her “friends” are shallow, over-tanned, and deeply cruel, uninviting her from a vacation. Of course, she goes anyway, runs into a friend with whom she has lost touch (Rhonda, played by Rachel Griffiths), and takes off from there on a voyage of touching self-discovery in Sydney.

Muriel’s Wedding is unlike the usual movie along these lines, because the path is smooth for neither Muriel nor Rhonda. Their flaws are believable, unlike the run of the mill rom-com women with exaggerated lunacies. Ms. Collette, Lord love her, is actually plausible as a woman with low self-esteem, and she brings her trademark slightly-mad vulnerability to this rôle. Ms. Griffiths is not as subtle, but nevertheless an effective foil. The Sydney sequences are episodic, and it would perhaps improve with more attention paid to shape and continuity.

All of this said, this is one of the best movies about women friends. Men are neither idolized nor demonized, but instead play rôles which they might in real life, which is a nice change. Some people are lousy, some people come through unexpectedly. It’s not exactly a feel-good movie, but that, I think, is a point in its favor.

Stray observations:

  • ABBA’s “Waterloo” is such a great song.
  • Man, wedding dresses used to be ridiculous.

Director: P. J. Hogan
Rating: R
Length: 106 minutes
Score: 3/5

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