My Big Fat Greek Wedding is a 2002 romantic comedy film written by and starring Nia Vardalos, directed by Joel Zwick and produced by Tom Hanks and his wife Rita Wilson. It is based on Vardalos' one woman show and at the 76th Academy Awards, it was nominated for Best Original Screenplay.Toula Portokalos is a single, voluptuous thirty-year-old Greek woman living with her parents and brother in a close-knitChicago Greek community and working in the family's Greek restaurant. They even have a Greek statue in their front lawn and proudly painted the Greek flag on their garage door. Deciding to invigorate her life, she breaks out on her own to go to college and start working at a travel agency. She also gets a makeover, taming her wild hair and getting contacts.In this new lifestyle she meets the handsome, charming but non-Greek Ian Miller. They fall for each other and decide to get married. Her dad does not approve; how could she possibly marry a non-Greek?Nevertheless, things get sorted out and a huge and very Greek wedding is planned...Hilarity Ensues.Noted for being the highest-grossing film to never have a #1 weekend at the box office, the film slowly propelled past $200 million domestically thanks to strong word-of-mouth and gross holding that slowly led to wider releases. One of the reasons behind its success is the sharp indie-film dialogue and avoiding many of the pitfalls that plague other romantic comedies like Hollywood Homely (Nia Vardalos is attractive but not the typical bombshell, giving her makeover more plot relevance than others) and the "teary-eyed breakup due to a misunderstanding."Followed up by an unmemorable TV sitcom, My Big Fat Greek Life.
Converting for Love: Ian, to Greek Orthodoxy. Since the Church isn't used to adults converting, he is baptised in a kiddie-pool.
Actually, there are plenty of adult conversions. You wear a white gown, not bathing trunks, then dress in a special outfit afterwards. There are special tubs for adult baptisms. The implication is that this specific parish doesn't see enough conversions to justify keeping the gowns, outfits, and tubs—which makes more sense for Winnepeg (pop. in 2000 630,000, Greek population minute) than Chicago (pop. in 2000 2.8 million, Greek population: They have a "Greektown," which used to be full of Greeks until they moved to the suburbs).
Odd Name Out: Almost all of the young family members have the name (or variation) of Anita (including Athena and Angelo), Diane or Nick (including Nikki). The outsider? Toula.
"Costas, Nick, Nick, Nick, Costas..."
"And I am GUS!"
This is pretty much Truth in Television for Greek families, since the eldest boy and girl in each branch of the family are usually named for their grandparents (giving you multiple cousins with the same names), but other children don't fit this pattern so they often have more unique names.
Old Maid: Toula is only 30, but her parents seem to think she needs to get married right away. Her father started calling her old at FOURTEEN! This is ExaggeratedTruth in Television, as any child of Greek immigrants will tell you. It's a pretty common attitude in the Eastern Mediterranean that any woman over 25 who isn't married is an embarrassment to the family.
One-Hit Wonder: This was Nia Vardalos's only project to have any sort of success. Her subsequent projects have mostly failed critically and financially.
This is partly Truth in Television, as Greek children are traditionally named after their grandparents—and with only four grandparents to go around among the huge number of grandkids, there's going to be some overlap. Obviously it doesn't usually get that bad, but still.
The Other Darrin: Nia Vardalos and most of Toula's family came along for the TV series, but John Corbett had to be recast.
Pursue the Dream Job: Toula, in her early thirties, decides to invigorate her life, going to college and starting to work at a travel agency.
Television airings cut all of her "ugly Turk" dialogue, which makes for some awkward dialogue jumps (like Grandma walking in, almost immediately hitting her son, and Toula's voice-over explaining that they told her the war was over). (What war; we didn't get her dialogue).
Rant Inducing Slight: Toula goes into a long rant about her stifling family environment when her Greek ethnicity is brought up in conversation.
Real-Life Relative: Ian Gomez, Nia's real life husband who was directly involved with the inspiration for the movie, plays a friend of the groom.
Leads to an Actor Allusion, as Ian Gomez's character flatly states that there's no way that a gorgeous woman like Toula would even look at a guy like him.
Real Men Eat Meat: Ian is a vegetarian and Toula's family is naturally shocked by this. Leads to a funny exchange:
Running Gag: Gus Portokalos thinks Windex is the solution to everything.
Becomes a bit of a Brick Joke at the end of the film when Ian sprays some on a wedding-day zit and it actually works.
Sleeper Hit: Turned a $5 million budget and a limited release into a $241 million domestic tally, thanks in part to such great word-of-mouth that the movie stayed in the top 10 weekly box office for over three months, gradually getting a wider release with each passing week due to its success. Some of the films it outgrossed on its shoestring budget: Austin Powers in Goldmember, Men in Black II, and Die Another Day.
Stay in the Kitchen: At the start, Toula's dad believes she should do this. As the film progresses, it appears to be more of "stay in the enclave", and applies to his son as well: Greeks hang out with Greeks, marry Greeks, work at the family business, and so forth.
Tactful Translation: Unimpressed with Ian's attempt to wish him a happy Easter ("Cheestro Nasty!"note Meant to be Χριστός ἀνέστη (Christos Anesti meaning "Christ is Risen!")), Gus mutters in Greek, "My people were writing philosophy when your people were still swinging in trees." At Ian's confused look, Toula says, "He likes you."
Truth in Television: As any Greek-American who's seen the film will readily tell you. And not only them.
Indeed. This movie was a big hit because America is a nation of immigrants, meaning that a whole lot of us have wacky ethnic relatives - which ethnicity doesn't really matter because they are ALL like Toula's family, in their own way.
It's hinted that Toula's brother Nick (who apparently wants to study art) has similar issues.
What Could Have Been: Tom Hanks helped produce the film but found some difficulty getting it made. The studios liked the idea but wanted to cut the "Big," "Fat," and "Greek" part out and cast someone like Jennifer Lopez in the main role (as a thirty year old woman who has trouble dating, yeah). That's the reason it went indie and turned out the way it did.