Muriel's Wedding is a 1994 Australian comedy-drama film written and directed by P. J. Hogan. The film, which stars actors 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 home town, the fictional Porpoise Spit, to Sydney.
Canadian theatrical release poster
|Directed by||P. J. Hogan|
|Produced by||Lynda House|
|Written by||P. J. Hogan|
|Music by||Peter Best|
|Edited by||Jill Bilcock|
House & Moorhouse Films
|Distributed by||Miramax Films|
|Box office||$57.5 million|
The film received multiple award nominations, including a Golden Globe Award nomination for Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy (Collette).
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 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.
Soon after, Bill's rumored mistress, Deidre Chambers, recruits Muriel into her multi-level marketing business, and Muriel's "friends" officially kick her out of their group after clarifying that she won't be accompanying them on an island holiday. Betty signs a blank check for Muriel to buy products for the cosmetics business, but Muriel instead uses the check to withdraw $12,000 and follow her former friends to the island anyway. There, Muriel runs into Rhonda Epinstalk, an old high school acquaintance, and they quickly strike up a friendship, cemented when Rhonda gleefully tells Tania about Nicole and Chook.
Muriel returns home and is confronted by Betty regarding the stolen money. Muriel immediately runs away to Sydney, sharing a flat with Rhonda and changing her name to Mariel. She gets a job at a video store, where she meets and briefly dates an awkward but kind man, Brice Nobes.
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 tumor 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 as 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.
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 by inviting Tania, Cheryl, and Janine to be 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.
In Porpoise Spit, an increasingly distraught Betty accidentally shoplifts a pair of sandals she tries on, and Dianne calls the police. Bill arranges for the charges to disappear. When Betty pleads with Bill that she needs help, he announces his intention to divorce her and marry Deidre. Betty is then found dead by her daughter, Joanie. While Deidre claims that Betty had a heart attack, it is revealed to Muriel by Joanie that she committed suicide.
When Muriel breaks down at her mother's funeral, David comforts her, and they finally consummate their marriage. Her mother's death has forced Muriel to take a hard look at her life, and she asks David for a divorce as neither of them are in love. Bill asks Muriel to help raise her siblings, as Deidre no longer wants to marry him because she does not want to take care of his kids. He has also lost his job on city council. Muriel stands up to him, giving him her $10,000 wedding money, saying that she will repay the rest of the amount she stole when she gets a job in Sydney. She impresses him with her more assertive personality, demanding that he immediately stop his verbally abusive treatment of her siblings.
Muriel goes to Rhonda's house, where Muriel's former tormentors are condescendingly visiting, and offers to take her back to Sydney. Rhonda accepts and tells off the other girls once again. Muriel and Rhonda head to the airport, happily leaving Porpoise Spit for a more promising future.
- Toni Collette as Muriel Heslop
- Bill Hunter as Bill Heslop
- Rachel Griffiths as Rhonda Epinstall
- Sophie Lee as Tania Degano
- Jeanie Drynan as Betty Heslop
- Gennie Nevinson as Deidre Chambers
- Daniel Lapaine as David Van Arkle
- Matt Day as Brice Nobes
- Roz Hammond as Cheryl
- Belinda Jarrett as Janine
- Pippa Grandison as Nicole
- Daniel Wyllie as Perry Heslop
- Gabby Millgate as Joanie Heslop
- Chris Haywood as Ken Blundell
The film used Tweed Heads as the locale for Porpoise Spit, although the scene of Muriel and Rhonda leaving Porpoise Spit was filmed in Coolangatta. Other filming locations included Moreton Island, Darlinghurst, the Gold Coast, Parramatta, Kingsford, Surfers Paradise and Sydney.
For the role of Muriel, Toni Collette gained 18 kg (40 lb) in seven weeks.
Muriel's Wedding received positive reviews from critics and has a "Certified Fresh" score of 78% on Rotten Tomatoes based on 40 reviews, with an average rating of 6.9/10. The critical consensus states, "Heartfelt and quirky, though at times broad, Muriel's Wedding mixes awkward comedy, oddball Australian characters, and a nostalgia-heavy soundtrack." The film also has a score of 63 out of 100 on Metacritic based on 14 critics indicating 'Generally favorable reviews'
Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times said the film "is merciless in its portrait of provincial society, and yet has a huge affection for its misfit survivors... [it] has a lot of big and little laughs in it, but also a melancholy undercurrent, which reveals itself toward the end of the film in a series of surprises and unexpected developments... The film's good heart keeps it from ever making fun of Muriel, although there are moments that must have been tempting."
Peter Stack of the San Francisco Chronicle stated, "With such recent hits as Strictly Ballroom and Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, Australia seems to be cornering the market for odd but delightful comedies laced with substance and romance. The latest, Muriel's Wedding, is another bright, occasionally brilliant, example... The movie is much meatier than its larky comic sheen leads you to think at first... There's poignant drama in this brash, sometimes overstated film, and Muriel's transformation is truly touching."
Peter Travers of Rolling Stone called it "exuberantly funny... a crowd pleaser that spices a tired formula with genuine feeling... In the final scenes, when Hogan dares to let his humor turn edgy, Collette's performance gains in force, and Muriel's Wedding becomes a date you want to keep."
The film premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in September 1994 and opened in Australia the following month. It earned US$244,969 on 14 screens in its opening weekend in the US and eventually grossed US$15,119,639 in the United States.
(1994 AFI Awards)
|Best Film||Lynda House||Won|
|Best Direction||P. J. Hogan||Nominated|
|Best Original Screenplay||Nominated|
|Best Actress||Toni Collette||Won|
|Best Supporting Actor||Bill Hunter||Nominated|
|Best Supporting Actress||Jeanie Drynan||Nominated|
|Best Editing||Jill Bilcock||Nominated|
|Best Sound||David Lee||Won|
|Best Production Design||Paddy Reardon||Nominated|
|Best Costume Design||Terry Ryan||Nominated|
|APRA Award||Best Film Score||Peter Best||Won|
|BAFTA Award||Best Original Screenplay||P. J. Hogan||Nominated|
|Golden Globe Award||Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical||Toni Collette||Nominated|
|Chicago Film Critics Association Award||Most Promising Actress||Nominated|
|Chicago International Film Festival||Mercedes-Benz Audience Award||P. J. Hogan||Won|
|FCCA Awards||Best Actor – Female||Toni Collette||Won|
|Best Supporting Actor – Female||Rachel Griffiths||Won|
|Writers Guild of America||Best Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen||P. J. Hogan||Nominated|
The music of ABBA forms the backbone of the film's soundtrack. Songwriters Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson allowed their use in the film and permitted one of their hits, "Dancing Queen", to be adapted as an orchestral piece.
Additional ABBA songs included are "Mamma Mia", "Waterloo", "Fernando", and "I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do". Also included are "Sugar Baby Love" by The Rubettes, "The Tide Is High" by Blondie, "I Go to Rio" by Peter Allen, "Happy Together" by The Turtles, and Schubert's "Ave Maria".
ABBA only gave permission for their music to be included in the film two weeks before shooting commenced: the filmmakers were considering going ahead and changing Muriel's favourite band to The Village People.
In September 2016, it was announced that Sydney Theatre Company would produce a musical adaptation of Muriel's Wedding. Muriel's Wedding The Musical incorporates songs by ABBA as well as original music by Kate Miller-Heidke and Keir Nuttall. P. J. Hogan wrote the musical's book, Simon Phillips directed, and Gabriela Tylesova designed the set and costumes. The musical ran at the Roslyn Packer Theatre from November 6, 2017 through January 27, 2018.
The stage production is currently in Melbourne and is running for 12 weeks before heading to Sydney. It has received great reviews from critics and Rachel Griffiths was there for the opening night.
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