The Weird and Wonderful MURIEL'S WEDDING is a Perfect Movie
This 1994 Australian film is on Netflix, and you should totally watch it. But is it really "feel-good"?
I love paeans to older movies I adore, because it’s fun reading a thousand or more words eloquently pointing out all the reasons why I’m absolutely right to love the movie the way I do.
I’m much less likely to read paeans to older movies I’ve never seen — and even less likely to finally watch the movie based on said paeans.
If I haven’t seen the film by now, I always think, how good can it be?
If you’ve never seen the 1994 Australian movie Muriel’s Wedding, I implore you to watch it now. It’s currently even available on Netflix.
Muriel’s Wedding is the story of a pathetic misfit named Muriel Heslop who, after a lifetime of dismissals from her father and friends, steals some money and sets out to achieve her secret long-time goal: to be married in a big and fabulous wedding.
Who she marries doesn’t matter, because it’s not about the guy or even the marriage. It’s about her being the bride in a wedding so big and fabulous that it will finally prove to everyone else — and, of course, herself — that she’s not a loser.
This whole movie is, in a word, bizarre. It has an anti-feminist must-get-married premise, but I think it’s a profoundly feminist film. It’s considered a “feel-good” movie, but it takes some incredibly dark turns. And it’s a comedy with a protagonist who, while sympathetic in some ways, can really only be called an anti-hero.
Muriel is selfish, shallow, self-deluded, and self-destructive.
But we somehow root for her anyway, mostly because she exists in a world of incredible cruelty. It’s shocking the way her father and friends belittle her.
Is this camp? It sometimes plays that way. But watch this scene to the end, to see the incredibly real way Muriel reacts to the way people dismiss her:
“I’m not nothing!” Muriel wails pathetically.
And, honestly, art doesn’t get any more truthful than this. In a very profound way, we are all Muriel. We’ve all either been her, or been terrified that we might become her.
The movie is sometimes over-the-top, but it’s never bizarre for the sake of being bizarre, and it’s the exact opposite of self-indulgent. Quirkiness and pretentiousness in film have become real pet-peeves of mine. Quirky, atmospheric directors like Sofia Coppola often leave me restless or outright bored, and the go-for-broke ones like Wes Anderson sometimes have me wanting to claw my eyes out.
I think: Can you PLEASE just tell the damn story?!
But Muriel’s Wedding is some of the surest, most solid storytelling I’ve ever seen.
Like most great tales, it’s both a universal story — of incredible yearning — but also the very specific story of one very strange person living in the fictional but utterly unique little backwater Australian town of Porpoise Spit.
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