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Film / Muriel's Wedding

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"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's Wedding is an Australian comedy-drama film written and directed by P.J. Hogan, starring Toni Collette 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.

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.

The film, its director, and its actors have received numerous awards and nominations, both in Australia and internationally.

A musical adaptation, featuring music and lyrics by Kate Miller Heidke, premiered in Australia in 2017.

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.
  • 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.
  • The Bogan: Most of the characters depicted (especially Muriel’s family and her vile “friends”) are bogans of the cashed-up variety.
  • 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 - and then blame her when the woman she was told to toss it to is upset by it.
  • Big, Screwed-Up Family: The Heslop clan.
  • Bittersweet Ending: True, Rhonda will never walk again and Muriel, who got the dream wedding she hoped for but none of the marriage that came with it, will have to take care of her for the foreseeable future. But it's clear that Muriel is finally being true to herself and is with her best friend, and they get to leave the backwater Porpoise Spit for good.
  • Brainless Beauty: Tania and her clique. Though how educated they actually are isn't clear but nevertheless, they're certainly very much shallow, superficial, and profoundly clueless.
  • 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.
  • Catchphrase: Joanie's "You're terrible, Muriel." Said with a tone of suppressed awe.
  • 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, but he does admit to liking having her around, and the longing look he gives her after they break up and she leaves suggests that he did develop something for her.
  • Cloud Cuckoolander: Betty Heslop. It's implied she has some sort of mild mental problem
  • Cool Big Sister: Joanie seems to see Muriel this way, and, compared to her other siblings, who seldom leave the house, Muriel does have some spunk and initiative.
  • Did Not Die That Way: Although Muriel's mum Betty committed suicide, Bill's girlfriend Deidre tells Muriel and her siblings that Betty had succumbed to a heart attack, possibly in order to save Bill's reputation as a politician.
  • Dysfunctional Family: The Heslops
  • 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. Muriel has very fiery auburn locks and while she seems like a wallflower, she does get loud when she's upset and becomes vocal when standing up to her father.
  • Food Slap: Tania tosses Muriel's drink in her face when Muriel turns up on Hibiscus Island.
  • Girl Posse: Tania, Nicole, Cheryl and Janine. Becomes a Terrible Trio after Nicole is kicked out of the posse for having sex with Tania's husband.
  • Headbutt of Love: David and Muriel when he's comforting her after her mother dies.
  • 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.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Muriel and Rhonda, although they have their rough patches during the movie.
  • Hot Guy, Ugly Wife: Muriel is regarded as ugly in-universe (one can say she's a BBW whose effort at presentation falls flat), but Citizenship Marriage husband David is a stunner.
  • 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.
  • "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.)
  • Long-Haired Pretty Boy: Tania's sleazy husband, Chook.
  • Womanchild: Muriel is a downplayed version of this; she's not the loser others think she is but at the start of the movie she is jobless, without ambition besides getting married, spends all day in her room listening to ABBA songs and lies to boutique workers so that she can take pictures in wedding gowns for free. She does grow up and starts being true to herself, though.
  • My Beloved Smother: Rhonda's mother is a relatively benign example.
  • Never Trust a Trailer: At least the U.S. one; it was sold in America as a light-hearted comedy, completely ignoring the Mood Whiplash that takes place in the film.
  • "Not So Different" Remark: 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.
  • Otaku: Muriel, for both weddings and ABBA.
  • Parting-Words Regret: One of Muriel's brothers calls their mother a "mad bitch," which is the last thing she hears before she commits suicide. The next time we see him, he looks deeply ashamed.
  • 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.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Rhonda to Muriel when Muriel has abandoned her to marry a man she doesn't love.
  • Reveal Shot: After Rhonda has cheerfully informed Tania that Nicole had sex with Chook on Tania and Chook's wedding day, we cut to the "Waterloo" scene and the camera pans around the table to reveal that Nicole has a massive black eye.
  • 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.
  • Sexless Marriage: Muriel and David, completed with separate beds. Expected, since they were in a Citizenship Marriage. They do consummate the marriage after Muriel's mother dies, but they break up soon after.
  • Sexual Karma: Muriel and David Van Arkle have a good time when they finally consummate their marriage. In contrast, adulterer Chook cannot perform with nasty Tania.
  • 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.
  • Stylistic Suck: Muriel's dancing and lip-syncing at the beginning of "Waterloo". She's clearly very unsure of herself and is only going through the motions, whereas Rhonda is really going for it. Over the course of the song Muriel gains more confidence, and by the end they're both totally into it. Even Tania and Nicole having a full-on Cat Fight can't put them off.
  • Two Decades Behind: The film is set in the mid-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.
  • Whatever Happened to the Mouse?: Whatever happened with David's Olympic bid? David's desire to represent Australia stemmed from a fear that his homeland South Africa would be barred from the Games. In real life South Africa did enter the 1996 Olympics, so perhaps David swam for his home country - having learned from Muriel to be true to himself.
  • When She Smiles: It's amazing how smiling (out of true happiness in Sydney) transforms Muriel's looks.
  • You Are Better Than You Think You Are: What Rhonda tells Muriel.