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|
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.
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 (Toni Collette), who loves the music of ABBA, is the target of ridicule by her shallow snobby friends Tania, Cheryl, Nicole and Janine, for her awkwardness, fashion sense, and embarrassing antics. She also is a perpetual daydreamer who yearns for a glamorous wedding to a man who will help get her out of the dead-end seaside tourist town of Porpoise Spit, improve her personal life, and free her from her domineering father, Bill (Bill Hunter), a corrupt politician who verbally lashes out at his subservient and depressed wife, Betty, and their unambitious children at every opportunity. Muriel attends the wedding of Tania and Chook. During the wedding reception Muriel sees Nicole and Chook having sex in a room. Chook's cousin Dianna calls the police on Muriel for stealing a dress that she is currently wearing at the wedding. Dianna witnessed Muriel stealing the dress at a store before the wedding. Muriel is escorted out the wedding reception by police. Soon after, Muriel's "friends" break off their friendship with her and plan a holiday to Hibiscus Island without her to cheer up Tania, who found out that Chook has cheated on her with another woman called Rose Biggs. Tania doesn't know that Chook had also been cheating on her with Nicole.
While out to dinner, Muriel and her family run into Bill's rumored mistress, Deidre Chambers, who has done well in a cosmetics pyramid scheme, and she recruits Muriel. The following day, Betty writes a blank check for Muriel to cash into the scheme. Instead, Muriel uses the check to withdraw $12,000 from her parents' bank account to follow her supposed friends to Hibiscus Island; when they discover Muriel there, they angrily tell her to leave them alone. Later on the island, Muriel runs into Rhonda Epinstalk (Rachel Griffiths), a fellow social outcast from her high school days who is more outgoing and adventurous. Muriel tells Rhonda that Tania and the other girls are at the resort too. Rhonda resolves to confront them, as she was also bullied by Tania in high school. Rhonda tells Tania that Muriel saw Nicole having sex with Chook, which later results in a physical fight between Tania and Nicole. During the trip, Muriel lies to Rhonda about being engaged.
At the end of her holiday, Muriel returns home and is confronted by Betty over the missing money. Muriel immediately leaves the house and moves to Sydney, where she shares a flat with Rhonda and changes her name to "Mariel." She also gets a job at a video store and briefly dates an awkward but kind man, Brice Nobes, whom she meets at the store. During one wild weekend night, Rhonda suddenly falls down, apparently paralyzed. While waiting in the emergency room in Sydney, Muriel calls her family home and learns the Australian Federal Police are investigating her father for corruption. Rhonda discovers she has a malignant tumor pressing on her spine and requires urgent surgery. Muriel then uses Rhonda's health crisis as the basis of a deception to obtain a free photo shoot from a bridal shop. During one of Rhonda's rehab sessions, Muriel promises that she will take care of Rhonda and that they will never need to return to their hometown. However, Rhonda later discovers that Muriel has tried on every wedding dress in Sydney and confronts her, forcing Muriel to confess the depth of her deceptions.
Rhonda's cancer returns, necessitating more severe surgery and leaving her permanently paralyzed. Still desperate to get married, Muriel enters into a conspiracy to commit visa fraud, marrying South African swimmer David Van Arkle so that he can stay in Australia and compete in the upcoming Olympics; she is paid $5,000 by David's parents for her part in the scheme. At Muriel's elaborate wedding, her former so-called friends serve as the bridesmaids with the exception of Nicole; Muriel had asked Rhonda to be a bridesmaid but Rhonda turned her down, instead relegated to being a guest. Tania tells Rhonda that her and Chook are Divorcing. Bill attends with Deidre. Betty arrives late to the wedding, missing the actual ceremony; Muriel doesn't notice her at the back of the church and walks past. Rhonda moves back to Porpoise Spit with her mother as she can no longer live in Sydney without any help, and Muriel moves in with David. David soon makes his contempt for Muriel known, and Muriel realizes their relationship will always be platonic.
Meanwhile, back in Porpoise Spit, a distraught Betty accidentally shoplifts a pair of sandals from a supermarket. Dianna, who saw Betty put on the shoes, follows Betty around the store and to the cashier. Dianna calls the police. Bill arranges with the police for the charges to disappear and takes Betty home. In the car Betty pleads with Bill that her actions were not intentional and that she needs help. Bill ignores Betty's cries and announces his intention to divorce her and marry Deidre. Betty sets the backyard on fire (after constantly asking one of her sons to mow it), then commits suicide by taking sleeping pills.
Realising her constant marginalisation broke Betty's will to live, Muriel breaks down. 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 the next morning, Muriel asks David, who has decided that he likes having her around, for a divorce. She leaves and wishes him good luck in the Olympics.
Bill asks Muriel to stay and help raise her siblings; she refuses. She repays $5,000 (the money she was paid for marrying David) of the $12,000 she stole, saying that she will repay the rest when she gets a job back in Sydney. She also states that she will no longer put up with his rude and emotionally abusive treatment of her and her siblings. Although a little taken aback by her new, more assertive personality, he nonetheless respects her decision and gives her his blessing to move back to Sydney. Bill reveals to Muriel that Deidre no longer wants to marry him because she does not want to take care of his kids. Bill also resigned from the city council after losing the campaign and being investigated. He is now unemployed.
Muriel visits Rhonda at her mother's house, where Muriel's former tormentors are also condescendingly visiting, and offers to take her back to Sydney. Rhonda accepts and tells off the other girls once again. They take a taxi to the airport and happily ride off to a more promising future.
- Toni Collette as Muriel Heslop
- Rachel Griffiths as Rhonda Epinstall
- Bill Hunter as Bill Heslop
- 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
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, 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 6.8/10. 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."
Muriel's Wedding grossed $15,765,571 at the box office in Australia.
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".
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.
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- "The wedding belle" by Stephen Lowenstein, The Guardian, 22 October 2000
- "Where you can recreate your favourite movie scenes in Queensland" by Sarah Motherwell, The Courier-Mail, 12 November 2015
- Thise, Mark (2008). Hollywood Winners & Losers A to Z. Hal Leonard Corporation. p. 35.
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- Ebert, Roger (17 March 1995). "Muriel's Wedding Movie Review (1995)". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 31 January 2010.
- Stack, Peter (17 March 1995). "Seeking Bliss, Muriel Finds Herself Instead / Sweet 'Wedding' comedy has substance". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 31 January 2010.
- Travers, Peter (10 March 1995). "Muriel's Wedding (review)". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 10 September 2017.
- "Film Victoria // supporting Victoria's film television and games industry – Film Victoria" (PDF). film.vic.gov.au.
- "Muriel's Wedding (1995) – Weekend Box Office Results". Box Office Mojo. 1995. Retrieved 31 January 2010.
- Hetrick, Adam (8 September 2016). "Muriel's Wedding Stage Musical Will Feature ABBA Songs". Playbill. Retrieved 8 September 2016.
- Gerard, Jeremy (8 September 2016). "Musical Muriel's Wedding Set To Become Global Creatures' Latest Stage Venture". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved 8 September 2016.