I didn’t really know what to expect with Muriel’s Wedding. I guess, if I was expecting anything, it was something like an Australian Four Weddings and a Funeral. The way the film was described, in addition to the wackiness and fun style displayed on the poster up there, led me to believe this would be a fun-filled debacle of an experience for our Muriel (whoever she was), and would thus provide entertainment value in the form of laughing at the unfortunate occurrences that would befall her. Completely not so; I ended up getting something more akin to an Australian version of Bridesmaids… and I wasn’t sure that I cared for it all too well.
Muriel Heslop is a modestly overweight, frumpy, social outcast who does nothing but listen to ABBA music and get berated by her emotionally abusive father, who doles out his treatment to the rest of the family as well, including Muriel’s mother. One day, her mother, on pretext of helping her father, hands her a blank check, which she promptly uses to go on a vacation instead, using up almost all of her father’s money. Afraid of facing him, she leaves her hometown and shacks up in Sydney with an old schoolmate friend she reconnects with, Rhonda. The film then follows her life, as she tries to deal with outcome after outcome life throws at her, all the while dreaming of having her very own wedding, to show everyone that she’s not the person she used to be. If that doesn’t sound like the comedy romp that you’ve been led to believe this film is all about, you’re not crazy; it’s not. The film is actually a pretty sobering portrait of a young woman stuck in life, berated by all around her, and generally unable to pick herself up and start on her own. Now, given my personal history, I’d be all about a film that explores this topic, but Muriel’s Wedding doesn’t explore it, or even try to educate about it in order to help those who are in such a situation. Instead, it wallows in the mire that is Muriel’s life, and the film almost relishes the misery that she so constantly finds herself in. My comparison to Bridesmaids is not an altogether improper one; this film loves to milk every moment of awkwardness out of Muriel and the situations she finds herself in that it almost got groan-worthy at times. Indeed, I had to stop midway through this one and take a break, just because I couldn’t handle the depression anymore, before I finally mustered up the resolve to finish it. There are two saving graces in this film, that without I probably would’ve given this a much lower rating. One, it’s well done; the camerawork was more advanced that I had been expecting, and the film was well cast all around. Which leads me to two: Rachel Griffiths’ performance as Muriel’s friend Rhonda, which made the film much more entertaining whenever she was on screen than when she was not.
I really didn’t appreciate the sour taste that was in my mouth the whole time this film was playing. It seemed to deliberately try to get you to feel lousy about the main character (as well as several other characters), as awkward as she was, and reveled in the depression and melancholy that they were drowning in, thanks to the film’s actions. And even though the film did technically end on a high note, it still paled in comparison to the downer that was the rest of the film. Muriel hadn’t really earned her high note, or changed in any significant way; she just survived her experiences, until finally the film was finished throwing her under the bus and decided to drive away and leave her to do whatever she wanted. I was so thrown by this film that I really don’t know how to recommend it; almost everything I’ve found has labeled it an uproarious comedy, and that is so far from what Muriel’s Wedding actually is that I almost feel a sense of responsibility in making sure anyone who reads this knows exactly what kind of film it really is before getting into it. If I’ve done that, great, and to that end, my watching Muriel’s Wedding has at least accomplished something. I’d be surprised if I were to actually watch this one again, but it was well done, so there’s that.
Arbitrary Rating: 7/10