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Beau Adams
Beau Adams

Muriel's Wedding

Muriel's Wedding is a 1994 Australian comedy-drama film written and directed by P.J. Hogan. The film, which stars Toni Collette, Rachel Griffiths, Jeanie Drynan, Sophie Lee, and Bill Hunter, focuses on the socially awkward Muriel whose ambition is to have a glamorous wedding and improve her personal life by moving from her dead-end hometown, the fictional Porpoise Spit, to Sydney.

Muriel's Wedding

Muriel Heslop, a socially awkward young woman, is the target of ridicule by her shallow and egotistical friends, Tania, Cheryl, Janine, and Nicole. She spends her time listening to ABBA songs and perpetually daydreams of a glamorous wedding to get her out of the dead-end beach town of Porpoise Spit and away from her domineering father, Bill, a corrupt politician who constantly belittles his wife, Betty, and five children.

Muriel attends the wedding of Tania and Chook, during which she sees Chook and Nicole having sex in a laundry room. Wedding guest Dianne, a department store detective, calls the police on Muriel for stealing the dress she is wearing, and the police publicly escort Muriel out of the reception.

One night, Rhonda suddenly falls down, apparently paralyzed. While at the hospital, Muriel calls home and learns her father is being investigated for taking bribes. Rhonda has a cancerous tumour in her spine and undergoes multiple operations, eventually leaving her permanently unable to walk. Muriel promises Rhonda to look after her and never let her go back to Porpoise Spit. She also uses Rhonda's health crisis to obtain pampered service at numerous bridal shops, trying on wedding dresses and taking photographs to indulge her wedding dreams. When Rhonda discovers what Muriel has done, Muriel finally confesses to her fixation on a storybook wedding, and they have an angry fight.

Desperate, Muriel enters into a conspiracy to marry South African swimmer David Van Arkle so that he can join Team Australia in the upcoming Olympics; she is paid $10,000 by David's parents for her part in the scheme. At Muriel's elaborate wedding in Sydney, she shows off Tania, Cheryl, and Janine as her bridesmaids; Rhonda, disgusted by Muriel's behavior, refuses to be one. Bill openly treats Deidre as his date, and Betty arrives late to the wedding due to being unable to afford plane tickets; Muriel doesn't notice her at the wedding. Rhonda moves back to her mother's home, unable to live in Sydney without help. After the wedding, David makes his contempt for Muriel clear to her.

Bill asks Muriel to help raise her siblings, as Deidre is less likely to marry him with the children in tow. He has also lost his job on city council. Muriel stands up to him, giving him $5,000 of her wedding money and telling him she will repay the rest of the stolen amount when she gets a job in Sydney. Impressing her father with her more assertive personality, Muriel demands that he stop his verbally abusive treatment of her siblings.

When Muriel catches the bouquet at a friend's wedding, her friends are furious: "Throw it again - you'll never get married." She doesn't look like much of a catch, in a leopard-skin dress that stands out so much she's spotted by another wedding guest who is, unfortunately, a floorwalker at the store where Muriel shoplifted it. She's delivered home from the wedding by the police, but is spared arrest when her dad, a local politician with the backslapping ease of a much more successful man, treats the cops to a case of beer.

Since I met you and moved to Sydney, my life is as good as an Abba song - as good as "Dancing Queen." For her, there is no higher praise. But Muriel is still unhappy, and because she identifies perfect happiness with getting married, she haunts wedding shops and eventually ends up in a marriage of convenience with an empty-eyed South African swimming star who needs a wife to get an Australian passport. (During their wedding, she lets out little simpering squeaks, and he looks at her with slack-jawed incredulity).

Muriel Heslop is a high school dropout living in the seaside village of Porpoise Spit on the Gold Coast. When not getting arrested for shoplifting or being ostracized by the "cool" girls in town, she spends her days listening to ABBA songs and fantasizing about the two things she wants in life - a fabulous wedding dress and a husband, in that order. At least that's what she thinks she wants. Muriel's worldview is based solely on what she sees in the bridal magazines she browses and the music she listens to, and although she's a witness to her parents' dysfunctional marriage and her disordered home life, she aspires to be a blushing bride.

It's not that Muriel is really looking for Mr. Right, but maybe if she gets a really nice wedding gown, she'll get a really nice life, too. At least that's what Modern Bride magazine tells her. Muriel has a strained relationship with the only man in her life, her father, who never fails to remind her that she's "an absolute disgrace," but she's too entrenched in her illusory world to realize that a man isn't going to rescue her from her directionless life. Writer-director Hogan lays the groundwork for the movie's theme, leading audiences to believe they're about to watch a comedy about the awkward girl meeting the man of her dreams. Turns out, it's not about Muriel meeting a man that saves her from herself - it's about Muriel meeting Rhonda.

Much to Muriel's delight, that man turns out to be a stunning - and rich - South African Olympic swimmer named David Van Arkle (Daniel Lapaine). Though David isn't sure what to make of Muriel at first, she's all in on the scheme. David makes it clear that he's doing this only so he can get a gold medal swimming for Australia. "All my life, I've wanted to win," he tells her. "Me, too," Muriel replies. Muriel finally gets her dream wedding, complete with ABBA's "I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do" as her processional music, but her dream man isn't someone who loves her. He's a transaction, and once again, Muriel is unable to establish an authentic relationship with a man.

Swept up in the pageantry of her marriage to a famous Olympian and all the publicity and fame that comes with it, Muriel abandons Rhonda. Before heading back to Porpoise Spit to be cared for by her mother, Rhonda tells Muriel, "You gave up on me. I needed help. I needed a friend." This is a sobering moment for Muriel because she finally sees how she's thrown away the one genuine relationship she's ever had for the chance to live out an empty fantasy. Muriel's loss is compounded when her mother passes away, leaving her alone and emotionally unsupported. This is her moment of reckoning. Knowing she can't continue a life of false pretense, she leaves David, telling him, "I thought I was a new person, but I'm not. I've told so many lies, one day, I won't know I'm doing it." Muriel takes off her wedding ring, symbolizing the end of her make-believe world and the beginning of the reality with which she must come to grips.

It's all Muriel ever needed to be happy. As she and Rhonda head off in a cab to the airport, bidding farewell to everything about Porpoise Spit that's held them back, audiences can see it's the genuine bond between these two women that will be the foundation for the adventures awaiting them back in the big city. Muriel's Wedding is a film that should be praised not only for its wonderful characters and touching script but for its celebration of two female characters who discover that all they've ever really needed is each other. Who needs weddings when you've got friends, anyway?

No wonder Muriel gets hooked on the music of ABBA and the dream of one day escaping into a whole new life through marriage. She certainly doesn't want to end up like her depressed mother who is ignored and deceived by everyone around her. Stuck in a dungeon of disappointment, Muriel secretly appropriates some money from her father and heads off to Bali for a vacation. There she meets Rhoda, a free-spirited woman who is also an outsider. Together they move to Sydney where Muriel reinvents herself far from the disapproving eyes of family and peers. Through a weird series of circumstances, she even gets a shot at fulfilling her wildest wedding fantasies.

Muriel is a small-town Australian girl with low self esteem. She's awkward, chubby, and has an almost childlike approach to the world. But without a true sense of herself, Muriel finds herself hanging out with people who treat her badly. When Muriel meets Rhoda (Rachel Griffiths), an old classmate, on a clandestine vacation, they take off to Sydney to make their way in the world. Though Muriel still lives through Rhoda -- going to clubs and flirting with guys -- she makes progress toward becoming her own person. After Rhoda gets sick, Muriel finds a way to live out her dream of a fairy tale wedding, even though the guy is only in it for the immigration benefits. When her family situation turns tragic, she's shaken out of her fantasy world and becomes determined to stop lying to herself and others.

The main contours of the plot remain the same on stage as they did on the screen, though the action has moved into the present. The totally daggy and ostracised Muriel is trapped in Porpoise Spit where she listens to ABBA and dreams of a wedding where the popular girls and her family will finally see her as a success. Rather than meeting her true love, however, Muriel meets Rhonda - another outcast with whom she escapes to Sydney. 041b061a72


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