Muriel's Wedding (1994)
July 3, 2021 8:21 PM - Subscribe

A young, backward, unemployed, and ABBA-obsessed Australian woman steals money from her parents to finance a vacation and makes a new friend, kickstarting a tumultuous chain of life-changing events.

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times stated the film "is merciless in its portrait of provincial society, and yet has a huge affection for its misfit survivors...has a lot of big and little laughs in it, but also a melancholy undercurrent, which reveals itself toward the end of the film in a series of surprises and unexpected developments...The film's good heart keeps it from ever making fun of Muriel, although there are moments that must have been tempting."

Peter Stack of the San Francisco Chronicle wrote "With such recent hits as Strictly Ballroom and Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, Australia seems to be cornering the market for odd but delightful comedies laced with substance and romance. The latest, Muriel's Wedding, is another bright, occasionally brilliant, example... the movie is much meatier than its larky comic sheen leads you to think at first...There's poignant drama in this brash, sometimes overstated film, and Muriel's transformation is truly touching."

Peter Travers of Rolling Stone called it "exuberantly funny...a crowd pleaser that spices a tired formula with genuine feeling...In the final scenes, when Hogan dares to let his humor turn edgy, Collette's performance gains in force, and Muriel's Wedding becomes a date you want to keep."

In 2017, The Guardian called Muriel's Wedding a "furiously feminist movie", and "a reminder that our female friendships are so often what pull us through. Because you’re never alone; you’re with Muriel."
posted by orange swan (11 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Oe, I loved this, when I watched when it first came out. Time for a re-watch!
my life is better than an ABBA song..
posted by mirthe at 12:24 AM on July 4, 2021 [4 favorites]

I recently rewatched this and it really holds up at a different stage in my life. This time I paid more attention to the family dynamics - her sister admiring her for getting out and the silent horror story of her mother’s life.

“You’re terrible, Muriel.” Said with a smile.
posted by jilloftrades at 3:41 AM on July 4, 2021 [2 favorites]


[whenever Bill Heslop's mistress Deidre Chambers turns up in a public place where Bill is]
Bill: What a coincidence!
Deidre: What a coincidence!

Deidre: [to two Japanese businessmen] Beauty consultant. I advise women on their lipstick, base and eye liner. But you should all know about make-up. Your wives must be geishas.
Victor Keinosuke: [does spit take]

Bill: Did Perry interview for the police force yet?
Betty: Yes, but they said he couldn't join because he was too tall.

Tania: He says they're not sleeping together. She only sucks him off.
Cheryl: Why?
Tania: Out of respect for me.
Nicole: Bitch.

Tania: Why don't you come have a drink with us?
Rhonda: You want to have a drink with me?
Tania: Well, yeah. We wouldn't want you to spend the entire holiday alone. It's not like in high school where you should feel you're not good enough to talk to us.
Rhonda: I don't.
Tania: If I feel you've changed, I'll tell you. I'm honest. Unlike some people, I tell it like it is.
Rhonda: The truth? I tell the truth too. Nicole's having an affair with Chook. Muriel saw them fucking in the laundry room on your wedding day. Stick your drink up your ass, Tania. I'd rather swallow razor blades than have a drink with you. Oh, by the way... I'm not alone. I'm with Muriel.

Muriel: He said if I ever left him, he would find out who I was living with and shoot them. Then, he'd shoot me, then himself.
Rhonda: Shit, he really loved you, didn't he?

Muriel: Bikkie?
Brice: Maybe after... I mean later.

Rhonda: [regarding her tumor] How did I get it? I mean, it's nothing to do with too much sex, is it?

Muriel: When I lived in Porpoise Spit, I used to sit in my room for hours and listen to ABBA songs. But since I've met you and moved to Sydney, I haven't listened to one Abba song. That's because my life is as good as an Abba song. It's as good as "Dancing Queen".

Bridal shop employee: Now, now, now... just a minute. You can't come in here and threaten brides. I don't care how unfortunate you are!
Rhonda: Fuck off!

Coach Ken Blundell: Mariel, you've probably seen the news about the civil war in South Africa. Well, just as the South Africans seem to be doing the right thing by the blacks, the police open fire on a black soccer club, and that is bad news for David.
Muriel: [to David, who is clearly a white South African] Are you black?
David: What?

[Muriel is being offered a $10,000 to marry David Van Arkle, a South African Olympic swimming contender, so he can gain Australian citizenship]
David Van Arkle: What about the black-haired one?
Coach Ken Blundell: No, she was Turkish. She'd only been in the country five minutes. [to Muriel] Now, whoever marries David will have to tell the immigration authorities that they're in love with him. Now there'll be media attention so they'll have to live with David in his flat for at least four months after the marriage. I've worked out all the details of the romance which you and David will have to stick to. But the most important thing is to convince people that you two are really in love.
David Van Arkle: What about the blonde?
Coach Ken Blundell: You didn't like her.
David Van Arkle: I'm not so sure now.

Rhonda: I had cancer. It's all right, they cut it out.
Cheryl: You were so full of life.
Rhonda: I'm not dead, Cheryl.

Coach Ken Blundell: All the guests are on her side. I should have bought you more friends.

Tania: They've accused him of raping a Japanese tourist, which is ridiculous! Chook hates the Japanese!

Rhonda: Rose Biggs? Are you friends with her?
Tania: Once we got to know her, we found out she was just like us.
Rhonda: But Rose Biggs sucked your husband's cock!
Rhonda's mom: Rhonda!
Rhonda: Well she did!
Tania: I know, but I sucked her husband's cock, and it made me realize... we all make mistakes.

Rhonda: Sorry, Mum. You know I love you, but you drive me crazy. And you three, what a bunch of cocksuckers.
Tania: Who do you think you are to call me that? I'm MARRIED! I'm BEAUTIFUL!


Toni Collette gained 40 pounds in 7 weeks with the help of a dietitian for this role.

P.J. Hogan based Muriel's personality on himself, but Muriel's actions were inspired by his sister, who embezzled $15,000 from their father and then disappeared to Sydney to live with a friend.

The photographs in the Heslop family album are actual childhood photos of the actors who portray the family.

Betty Heslop passes a magazine called Woman's Day in the supermarket. Woman's Day is a real magazine which did a feature article about the movie. The same cover (as the one in the movie) was used.
posted by orange swan at 5:19 AM on July 4, 2021 [3 favorites]

The first time I visited Sweden I got the overnight train from Norway, arriving at Stockholm central at 6-7am, went up to the concourse to work out what I was doing next, where I could find a hostel etc. And all over the station they were playing ABBA's Waterloo. I was wondering whether this was how Sweden was, just 100% ABBA all the time? Nah, it was the ad for Muriel's Wedding playing on repeat.
posted by biffa at 8:58 AM on July 4, 2021 [3 favorites]

I saw this when it was in the theaters in America, and was so taken by it that I saw it again in the theater, which I rarely do. I was mystified by my own reaction to it until several years later, when my own marriage was falling apart, and I realized that, barely two years after getting married, I was subconsciously realizing what a mistake it was.
posted by Halloween Jack at 9:30 AM on July 4, 2021

The casual racism and familial abuse in this movie is pretty hard to take.

Bill Heslop taking two Japanese colleagues to a Chinese restaurant, arghhh. And the way he treated his family, with Betty currying favour with him by parroting some of his abuse. What a horrible man. I think losing his wife and his mistress and his seat on the town council will be a huge wake up call for him, but I don't know how much he'll actually change.

My birth family dynamic was such that I can relate to Muriel more than I would really like to, and my teenage years largely resembled her life as it was at the beginning of the movie. When you grow up being constantly criticized, belittled, ridiculed, and sneered at by your own family, it destroys your sense of self-worth, your confidence, your initiative, your boundaries, your ability to accomplish things. Muriel had plenty of potential as a person but she'd become an empty vessel who had no goals, no plans, no interests, who slept half the day, who spent the other half of her time in her room filling the void with puerile fantasies, and who let her so-called friends treat her like shit.

And then Muriel meets Rhonda. I like that Rhonda isn't some super insightful, woke person. She has more confidence than Muriel, and is happier and more outgoing, but other than that she is just an ordinary, free-spirited, fun-loving young adult, with no better grasp of how the world works than Muriel has. But she is kind and positive and she sincerely likes and enjoys being around Muriel, and that's enough to create an emotional space for Muriel in which she can begin to flower into the kind of person she's capable of being: to turn her back on her terrible friends, to leave home, to get a job, to get her first boyfriend, to have fun, to live a full life.

It's when reality hits Rhonda like a freight train after her cancer diagnosis that Muriel begins to retreat again into fantasy and deception, but she soon realizes that's no way to live life, and almost her first step in getting her life back on track again is to turn to the only genuinely good thing she has in her life: her friendship with Rhonda. She still doesn't have any life plans for herself (which is totally realistic, as she's 22, and most 22-year-olds don't know what they want, nor how to get it), but living with Rhonda in the larger arena of Sydney is both emotionally and logistically a good place for her to be while she figures all of that out, so she takes that step.

Tania, Nicole, Cheryl, and Janine are very funny (love that scene of them sitting sullenly in the audience -- and Nicole's black eye, hee! -- while Rhonda and Muriel do their "Waterloo" number), but SO vapid and awful. In their case I think the best thing that could happen for them is to have a falling out and stop hanging out together, because maybe then they'll start actually thinking for themselves and do something worthwhile with their lives instead of reinforcing one another's shallowness and cruelty. Friendship can be an incredible gift -- affirming, transformative -- but it can also be a very damaging, destructive thing. I think their influence had a lot to do with why Muriel was so fixated on getting married -- not on building a good and lasting relationship with a man and committing to life with him, but just on the status and ego-boost of being "chosen", of being a beautiful bride and the centre of attention for a day. They thought that way; so did she.

I loved the way David acts like a husband to Muriel after her mother dies, and always feel a pang of regret that she leaves him, but who knows, maybe there is more to their story. Or maybe there's more to her story with Brice, who also seems like a decent guy. I do like that Muriel's love story is left open-ended, like so much else about her life story. She isn't ready to get married, she doesn't have a life plan, and that's okay, because she's very young and has been hampered by her father's abuse, and what's really important about this chapter of her life is her bedrock friendship with Rhonda, and her own development as a person.
posted by orange swan at 11:31 AM on July 4, 2021 [11 favorites]

Muriel's Wedding is my all time favorite film. Even after seeing it countless times, I still cry at the final scene where Muriel and Rhonda head off together in a taxi, leaving Porpoise Spit behind them. Happy tears.
posted by jabah at 11:49 AM on July 4, 2021 [3 favorites]

I am still haunted by her mother, especially the scene where she finally breaks and yells at her son, but it accomplishes nothing, and that's the final straw.

It's a funny movie but truly dark.
posted by emjaybee at 2:54 PM on July 4, 2021 [6 favorites]

This is also one of my favourites! Thanks for the trip down memory lane.
posted by Valancy Rachel at 12:53 PM on July 5, 2021

I hated this movie, because the two most sympathetic characters, her poor mistreated Mother and her only friend, got the worst of it. It just seemed like two hours of people treating each other like crap. Ugh.
posted by Beholder at 3:57 PM on July 8, 2021

I love this movie, but I'm not sure this was necessary.
posted by Naberius at 9:54 AM on July 12, 2021

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