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Film: Muriel's Wedding

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'.
Muriel(Toni Collette)

Muriel's Wedding is an Australian comedy written and directed by P.J. Hogan (My Best Friends Wedding, Confessions of a Shopaholic), starring Toni Collette (The Sixth Sense, United States Of Tara) as the title character. The film was released in Australia in 1994, where it received widespread critical acclaim before its theatrical release in the U.S. in 1995. The film is notable as being the first major international hit for its director, star, and costar Rachel Griffiths (Six Feet Under, Brothers and Sisters).

Muriel Heslop (Toni Collette) is a socially inept young woman who lives in the small Australian resort town of Porpoise Spit with her shut-in siblings, mentally unstable mother and emotionally abusive father (city councilman Bill Heslop, played by veteran actor Bill Hunter.) Unemployed and recently ostracized from her group of stuck-up friends, Muriel has begun to feel trapped in her life as a "nobody" and unable to fulfill her life-long dream of having the perfect wedding. Muriel jumps at the chance to impress her friends by following them to a tropical resort — a vacation that has been financed by Muriel stealing several thousand dollars from her father's bank account.

At the resort Muriel is further derided and rejected by her former friends, however her trip ends on a positive note after she meets Rhonda (Rachel Griffiths), a wild former classmate from Porpoise Spit. In an effort to impress Rhonda, Muriel tells her that she is engaged, and at the resort to have one last fling. Not eager to return home and face her father, Muriel impulsively chooses to move to Sydney, where she becomes room-mates with Rhonda. Deciding to completely re-invent herself (even to the point of changing her name to 'Mariel'), Muriel gets a job at a video-store and begins to pursue her dreams. Soon, however, her lies and her past begin to catch up with her, and Muriel is forced to face the person she truly is in order to grow into the person she wishes to become.

Muriel's Wedding is a charmingly funny look at the life of a young woman with low sense of self-worth, and the trials and tribulations she faces on her journey of personal growth. While a comedy at heart, the film does not shy away from a frank portrayal of serious family and emotional issues. The film, its director, and its actors have received numerous awards and nominations, both in Australia and internationally.

This film contains examples of:

  • Abusive Parents — Bill Heslop, who takes every occasion to lament about how worthless his children are... right in front of them. In public.
  • Adorkable — Brice, Muriel's first boyfriend.
  • Alpha Bitch: Tania.
    Tania: Who do you think you are to call me that? I'm married! I'm beautiful!
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Deirdre Chambers, Bill Heslop's not-so-secret girlfriend.
  • Bouquet Toss — The film starts with a dramatic slow-motion bouquet toss, which Muriel catches. Since everyone expects that she will be the last woman to ever get married, her snotty "friends" demand she re-toss it to someone else.
  • Big Screwed-Up Family — The Heslop clan.
  • Brutal Honesty: Rhonda's defining trait:
    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.
  • Calling the Old Man Out
  • Chaste Hero — Muriel, though not by choice.
  • Citizenship Marriage — Muriel is so desperate to get married that she even answers an advertisement to enter into a marriage of convenience to a South African who wants to join the Australian Olympic Swim Team. It works out about as well as you'd expect.
  • Cloud Cuckoolander — Bettie Heslop. It's implied she has some sort of mild mental problem
    • Also Muriel frequently
  • Cool Big Sister: Joannie seems to see Muriel this way, and, compared to her other siblings, who seldom leave the house, Muriel does have some spunk and initiative.
  • Completely Missing the Point: Near the end of the film, Tania's husband Chook has been arrested for raping a Japanese tourist. Tania thinks it's ridiculous, because Chook hates the Japanese.
  • Cultural Cringe — Subverted, as this Australian Film received world-wide financial success and widespread critical accolades.
  • Deadpan Snarker — Rhonda.
  • Determinator: Muriel given all the bad stuff that happens to her.
  • Driven to Suicide Muriel's mother.
  • Ethical Slut — Rhonda, who criticizes Muriel for marrying someone she doesn't love and frequently calls out Tania and her clique for their nastiness and hypocrisy ("As for you three, what a bunch of cocksuckers!")
  • Evil Eyeshadow: Played straight and subverted with Tania and her clique, who also wear tons and tons of garish makeup.
  • Fiery Redhead: Our heroine.
  • Food Slap: Tania tosses Muriel's drink in her voice when Muriel turns up on Hibiscus Island.
  • Heel-Face Turn — David Van Arkle, Muriel's very unwilling groom after Muriel's mother dies.
    • Bill also in the aftermath of the aforementioned and Deidre leaving him.
  • Girl Posse — Tania, Nicole, Cheryl and Janine. Becomes a Terrible Trio after Nicole is kicked out of the possee for having sex with Tania's husband.
  • Good People Have Good Sex: Muriel and David Van Arkle when they finally consummate their marriage. In contrast, adulterer Chook cannot perform with nasty Tania.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Muriel and Rhonda, although they have their rough patches during the movie.
  • Hula and Luaus — Hibiscus Island
  • "I Want" Song — In her most depressed moments, Muriel will pop a tape into her cassette player and sing along to one of the myriad of ABBA songs featured in the movie. (Usually Dancing Queen, though, for Muriel, any ABBA song will do.)
  • I Can't Feel My Legs Rhonda. At least she had fun with the American sailors first.
  • Impossibly Tacky Clothes — Muriel's wardrobe before she moves to Sydney. Also Tania's 80s style wedding dress and the fuchsia bridesmaid dresses.
  • Interchangeable Asian Cultures — Muriel's father tries to make a couple of Japanese businessmen feel at home by taking them to a Chinese restaurant.
  • Long-Haired Pretty Boy — Tania's sleazy husband, Chook.
  • My Beloved Smother — Rhonda's mother is a relatively benign example.
  • Not So Different: Tania holds a grudge against Rose Biggs for fellating Tania's husband Chook, on their wedding day. However, by the end of the film, Tania and Rose are apparently on good terms again. Why? Tania fellated Rose's husband, and realized that Rose isn't so different from Tania and the rest of her clique. Which later prompts Rhonda to say, "And you three—what a bunch of cocksuckers." Which made Tania and her friends react pretty much the way you'd expect. Muriel herself behaves towards the two people who are loyal to her - Rhonda and her mother - that is not so different from how she was treated by her friends and father.
    • Tania is just as obsessed with marriage as Muriel and is so anxious to stay married that she takes back her spouse, a two-time adulterer and convicted rapist. Muriel at least wises up.
    • Muriel is a crook and liar just like her father but she does resolve to change at the end of the film.
    • Muriel and David are both obsessed with being winners, be it through marriage or an Olympic gold medal.
  • Otaku — Muriel, for both weddings and ABBA
  • Really Gets Around — Rhonda.
  • Reaction Shot — The guests at Muriel's wedding when ABBA's "I Do I Do I Do" blares out.
    • Lots of these from Tania's clique throughout the film.
  • Screw the Rules, I'm Beautiful!: Tania attempts—and fails miserably at—doing this while ironically making one of her ugliest facial expressions in the entire movie.
  • Sex Comedy: Brice's attempt to deflower Muriel.
  • Sex Is Evil: Humorously lampshaded and averted when Rhonda asks the doctor if too much sex caused her tumor and he says no.
  • She Cleans Up Nicely: Muriel, you're beautiful.
  • Sour Outside, Sad Inside — David who is pressured into a marriage of convenience for the sake of his swimming career.
  • Sleazy Politician — Bill Heslop, who has spent most of his political career positioning himself to get kickbacks for building projects as a local councilman in Porpoise Spit, also makes a habit of cheating on his wife and emotionally abusing his kids.
  • Small Town Boredom — How Muriel and Rhonda feel whenever they're in Porpoise Spit.
  • Sydney
  • The Loins Sleep Tonight: Chook.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech — Rhonda to Muriel when Muriel has abandoned her to marry a man she doesn't love.
  • Two Decades Behind: The film is set in the early nineties, yet the women of Porpoise Spit have tacky early eighties hairstyles and clothing. This may be meant to highlight what a backwater Porpoise Spit is.
  • Your Cheating Heart — Chook and Bill Heslop.

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alternative title(s): Muriels Wedding
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