Muriel’s Wedding (1994)

Muriel’s Wedding – 1994

Director – P.J. Hogan

Starring – Toni Collette, Rachel Griffiths, and Bill Hunter

When facing down a list as formidable as this one is, I find myself assuming that each film on it means something.  Whether it’s historically important, the swan song of a particular star or director, or maybe it simply broke all the records at the box office.  Apparently that isn’t always the case.  Muriel’s Wedding, while rather fun, and charming enough, manages to be none of these things and still it’s here.

The film tells the story of the wedding obsessed Muriel (a young Toni Collette, in her pre-Hollywood days), and her exodus from the family, friends, and town that seem to be working over time in order to keep her down.  Muriel lives in Porpoise Spit, a diaper-rash of a little town filled with the shallow, ignorant, and self obsessed people who exist (in one form or another) in all small towns.  Leading the charge of the obnoxious brigade is Muriel’s family, including her shiftless, unemployed siblings, the empty and ineffectual mother who barely exists, and the overbearing, loud-mouth of a father who worked so hard to drive and inspire these character flaws in his own family.

The most important thing in Muriel’s life is the bright, shining, future she imagines for herself (specifically the wedding part), never-mind the lack of any real interpersonal connection or the absence of any semblance of self-appreciation she may have for herself.  She simply wants this ideal so badly that she doesn’t care just how she gets there, by hook or by crook.

The story is fun, the acting is pretty good, and I really did want the best for Muriel (not to mention, her loud mouthed friend Rhonda, AKA: Brenda on Six Feet Under, AKA: Rachel Griffiths), but even given all that, it still wasn’t worthy of its placement on this list.  When you have a rather simple romantic comedy with a slight empowering wink at the end, that doesn’t mean it deserves to stand alongside films with the emotional weight and importance of films like Z, or the historical significance of a film like, Children of Paradise, or even the cleverness, and humor managed by the still rather thin, Meet the Parents

Perhaps it’s just one of those movies that doesn’t speak to me, or the place from which I came, or the time in which that place might have existed.  At the very least, I remember the film coming out in theaters, however I don’t really recall it making all that much of a splash even then.  The Australian revolution of film had a brief rekindling with the advent of the Crocodile Dundee franchise, but I’m afraid by the time Young Einstein came out in 1988, Mel Gibson had moved to the United States full-time, and everyone in the states stopped paying attention to what was happening down under.

There was the occasional gem that came out of Australia from those backwards years also known as the 90’s, but for every Peter Weir, Guy Pierce film, there were two Paul Hogan films (Yes I liked Crocodile Dundee when I was a kid, but give me a break, I was a kid, I thought Battleship was a fun board game too). I realize that 1000 movies is a lot to come up with, but I could rattle off a dozen or so just off the top of my head that didn’t make the cut, but were world’s better. Next thing you know, they’ll be letting a Transformers movie onto this list…Nice try, but better luck next time.  Instead how about trying Les Cage Aux Folles (a film I accidentally watched thinking that it was on this list), what would later be remade into The Birdcage.  Both that film and it’s remake are more deserving of recognition to be sure.

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5 thoughts on “Muriel’s Wedding (1994)

  1. Pingback: 1001 Movies – The Complete List | 1001 Movies…Before I Die!

  2. Wow. I could not disagree with you more. I come, however from the opposite end of the spectrum, in that I grew up in a family very similar to the one in the film, so I found the film to be both, hilarious yet emotionally devastating.

    Muriel’s Wedding grossed $15,765,571 at the box office in Australia in 1994 (a film is considered a hit in Australia if it grosses $5 million). It earned US$244,969 on 14 screens in its opening weekend in the US and eventually grossed US$15,119,639 in the States – which is pretty decent for a independent movie. So it was hardly a film that “didn’t make a splash” at the time.

    • I hope my post didn’t sound like I was bashing the film at all. I really did like the movie, I’d even say quite a bit. Similarly I had no real knowledge of what it’s actual impact on both the Australian and American box office for real, I was simply going on what I remember from 1994 (I had my first job at a movie theater not too long after this was released and I only really have vague memories of it at best). I think at the time I was on a real bender on the films of Oliver Stone (Natural Born Killers being the one in particular from that year), and Quentin Tarantino (Pulp Fiction was from that year too), so I was clearly paying attention to quite a different kind of film altogether.

      I also felt like I wanted some sort of justice for Muriel’s mother and for her Father and siblings (in particular the “You’re terrible, Muriel.” sister) to get their comeuppance for the grief they put her through.

      • You know I guess I didn’t realize that it was the same director. It’s been a while since I’ve seen that film, but I remember really liking Rupert Everett. I’m not a huge fan of Julia Roberts as a general rule, but all in all I thought it was (like Muriel’s Wedding) pretty fun.

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