Here it comes: The Movie Review!
Oh, and: Things I Really Like!
But alas, no more dawdling. Writing this is both excitingly beautiful and intimidatingly terrifying, because to hit off this category of talking about movies plus things that I love I chose my all time favorite movie MURIEL’S WEDDING. Beautiful because, duh, well, I love it so much. Terrifying because this is the first time I review a movie, so I’ll probably suck terribly at doing this, posting it thinking that I did pretty damn well, coming back to it in months time realizing how dreadful it is. Nevertheless, here we go.
MURIEL’S WEDDING was released to theaters in 1994, it’s an Australian film directed by PJ Hogan and the first major starring role for the amazingness that is Toni Colette, who kinda made her way to Hollywood later on and now stars in the successful TV series “The United States of Tara” that won her an Emmy last year.
“Since I’ve met you and moved to Sidney I haven’t listened to one ABBA song. It’s because now my life is as good as an ABBA song. It’s as good as Dancing Queen!”
Loving that movie to me means that I basically acknowledge how much I often dream about my life being some sort of ABBA song hoping for the day I stop dreaming just to realize it has actually become as perfect as an ABBA song. Metaphorically speaking, that is. Don’t get me wrong. I love ABBA and I even like Dancing Queen, but there’s better examples, to speak for me personally.
Muriel represents all the people who know what it means to feel inferior, unable to cope with that. And as most people do, she resorts to lying, building up the fantasy of a better life not only in her mind (mingled with bridal pictures and ABBA tunes) but for all of them surrounding her, she tries to convince herself, that her life has become better by making everyone else believe the same. So far so good, but what makes this movie so emotionally rewarding is the unavoidable self-realization moment: because lie all you want, YOU still know it’s all a lie.
So the moment Muriel tells her hunky swimmer husband “I cannot be married to you any longer” (who is so out of her league and still they just had sex, because, well, he wanted it), shows up at her family’s home and says “I’m taking responsibility for what I’ve done, but Dad and all the rest, you gotta do the same” and finally goes to Rhonda and her Mum’s saying “come with me, and you know why?, well damn, cause I’m your very best friend in the world” all the fancy dream-bubbles of a better life burst just to be replaced by a Muriel that truly is a new and improved version of her former self.
Not to forget: the movie is basically a comedy. It is beautiful to see that the movie makes fun of all its featured characters while at the same time taking them serious, treating them as human beings. And heck, no one gets spared. They all say/do/think stupid things, but are never not taken seriously as human beings. Ermh, except for the Princesses-gang, but you could argue that this is because they themselves never realize when they do something stupid, nor get ever called out for it, except for maybe in the end, when we get a glimpse on them having some sort of insight into what their lifestyle really consists of.
A scene that sums it up pretty nicely is the one in hospital. Right after a night full of flirting, sex, semi-sex and hilarity, crowned with the shock of Rhonda having no feeling in her legs any more, she and Muriel talk to a doctor. “It’s not caused by too much sex, is it?” she asks the doctor about the tumor he’s just been talking about. And both her and Muriel exhale with a relieved grin, revealing all their naivité about this situation, when he says “no.” Then he goes on to say “We don’t know what causes cancer.” Comic relief, take that!
Amongst all laughter and ABBA songs there is a lot of sadness and tragedy in MURIELS WEDDING, quite understandably so in a movie about finding oneself. Because quite a few people never manage to and get lost along the way. While the Princesses-gang is more of a comic example of that and serves mainly to make us feel better for realizing where the true worth of a person lies, there is also the tragic fate of Muriel’s mother. Her portrayal by actress Jeanie Drynan is really one of the highlights of the whole movie. Being the abused, deceived and deluded wife and mother to the family she brings out a few grins and smirks here and there, but it’s mainly the despair and hopelessness that makes up her story. “I need help.” she tells her husband, and all he does is turning up the volume of the radio. She gets no recognition whatsoever from her kids (except for Joanie, we could assume) due to all of them being unable to escape the mantra their dad has been pouring over their heads all these years: you’re worthless, you won’t make it.
I just said, that the portrayal of Muriel’s mother was one of the highlights, when in fact, it’s the whole family, who represents one of the major highlights of the movie. Overlooked for the fact that they are hardly driving the plot, her siblings are these mysterious beings (that remind me of the Beatles’ Eleanor Rigby) we all know: People whose faces seem blank and whose lives we imagine to be as blank and bleak their appearances. Their isolation from meaningful (in the sense of empowering) human relationships due to their exclusion by visual default from society marks them off as losers. And while we experience Muriel’s fate and her overcoming this predisposition by taking charge, by taking risks and by finally coming clean and telling the truth we only get momentary glimpses into the lives and minds of her siblings, who themselves have built up fantasy worlds of their own in their minds. Will they ever find the strength? Will Muriel one day reach out and help them find it? It’s hard to tell, but it’s impressive with how little screen time and seemingly absent acting these characters become powerful and lasting images of what we all might be, if we never get told that we’re beautiful creatures.
David: “What kind of person marries someone they don’t know?”
Muriel: “You did.”
David: “I want to win! All my life I wanted to win!”
Muriel: “Me too.”
Just how spot on is that piece of dialogue? Yes, I know, very. Don’t we all want to win? Realize our dreams? Be loved? Rich, beautiful, married, successful? I don’t know about you, but that’s what I occasionally dream of too, and this movie reminds me how easy it is to forget that all that really matters is keeping close to the truth – even if it hurts – and stick to the friends who really are your friends– because they enrich you in ways hard to imagine. Keeping that in mind I’m hoping for living out the rest of my life sitting in the cab like Muriel and Rhonda at the end of the movie, Dancing Queen playing in the background, screaming “Goodbye, Porpoise Spit!” out of the window. And then that smile.
Haven’t seen it? Go watch it!