Sunday, September 23, 2007

Muriel's Wedding (1995)


It seems like whenever I come up with those lists about greatest films, there is a tendency to fill it with films that might establish some credibility. You know, those same old standbys like The Godfather, Gone With The Wind, Casablanca, and Citizen Kane.

But I don't know that I could ever be happy with such a list unless it had some sort of personal mark on it. Those films that may not be the most innovative or profound, but instead, the type of film I can pop into the DVD player in the throes of boredom and still enjoy. The ones when I flip through the channels and stop on if it happens to be playing.

So for me, any such list I might create would simply feel incomplete or fraudulent if Muriel's Wedding weren't included in some way. I can think of few other films that I get such pure giddy pleasure from watching. And while some cinephiles may be tempted to classify it as a guilty pleasure, I feel no remorse in proclaiming my love for this film. And accordingly, after looking over the films I've written about already, so many of them are so heavy, and mostly such well regarded films anyway, I felt like writing about this one, which seems to be all too easily dismissed for being lightweight.

I think it's a film that contains a lot of witty dialogue, an endearing cast, and characters you honestly care about. And I think in some ways, many can relate to Muriel. Feeling on the outside, wallowing in insecurities, social awkwardness in certain situations, and just a sense that you're somehow alien and don't belong. Dreaming of a more fulfilling life elsewhere and having the chance to start over.

It's set to a joyous soundtrack of ABBA songs (which, I will call a guilty pleasure), Muriel's Wedding even when it's not making me laugh, consistently makes me feel something inside while I watch it, whether it's empathy or hopefulness. Even though I've seen it more times than I can count, I have a hard time letting my attention drift from the film.

And I don't know that it would work if you didn't have the phenomenal Toni Collette in the title role, as well as Rachel Griffiths, as Rhonda, her former classmate that she reconnects with on an ill-fated vacation to Hibiscus Island. While this was the first I'd heard of either actress, both have subsequently gone on to critical success, Oscar nominations, and popularity. But the entire supporting cast is great in this film. In particular, Jeannie Drynan, who play's Muriel's mother, is so utterly heartbreaking in this film, I can't recall a character right now who I just felt so much sympathy for.

If you've never had the opportunity to see this one, I really can't recommend it highly enough. Although I've seen this more times than I can count, I have no doubt that this one will continue to be a favorite for years to come.

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