In Derp Blog Into Darkness, I take a plunge into the deep with movies I’ve never seen or (in some cases) never even heard of, with the only common thread throughout being that they were purchased by my partner in the years after the break with her religious upbringing. This gives me a range from mainstream comfort food to more daring, “rebellious” stuff.
Look at that goddamned DVD cover. Happy ass bride, wedding in the title, pink and white title font. Surely any rational adult can vaguely extrapolate what will happen in this movie, right? I say thee nay, Midgardian! Make no mistake: MURIEL’S WEDDING is a dark ass movie.
Future SIXTH SENSE mom and SHAFT murder witness Toni Collette plays Muriel Hislop, daughter of a small-town Australian entrepreneur. Muriel doesn’t really have much of a life. Her room is plastered with cut-out brides and dresses, and she listens to Abba’s greatest hits pretty much on a loop. She has nominal “friends” whom she just kind of stands around as they blather on vapidly. Muriel has no job, but that’s actually not too uncommon in the Hislop household, with a mother who seems constantly lost in her own little world and four other siblings who do nothing but hang around and smoke cigarettes. Her middle sister has a repeated catchphrase throughout the movie, “Muriel… you’re terrible!” The first time we hear it, we assume she means that Muriel’s been naughty, but as it keeps coming back, it really hammers home that everyone thinks Muriel is basically the worst. She’s sort of a female Jerry from Parks & Recreation, if you will.
One day Muriel’s friends decide she is just too much of a drag and tell her to fuck off. Her presence is not wanted anymore as she is fat and lame and listens to 70s music rather than cool 90s music like the Baby Animals. The Vapettes go on a holiday to Hibiscus Island*, the original honeymoon destination of Vapirella #1, whose husband has just orally cuckolded her. Coincidentally, Muriel’s dad Bill hooks her up with a blank check to go deck herself out with decent clothes for a new job he’s also hooked her up with. Instead, the vengeance-crazed yet not very focused Muriel decides to go to Hibiscus Island as well. There, she meets high school classmate Rhonda. They become fast friends, fuck with the Vapettes some more, and eventually even move in together in Sidney somewhere. For the first time in her life, Muriel (who renames herself Mariel) is happy and fulfilled. She has a job at a video store and even goes on dates! I’m not entirely sure, but I think the movie implies that this woman in her mid 20s has never dated before.
So why is it even called MURIEL’S WEDDING? She gonna find Mr. Right and have a big ass wedding or what? Not exactly! As Muriel herself says “Someone wants to date me! That means I’m a better person than I used to be! If I find someone who’ll marry me, that’ll mean I’ll finally be another person. A new person! Not Muriel!”. Muriel has no specific dreamboat she wants to land; She just sees marriage as this symbolic ritual of elevation, this acknowledgement that she’s just as good as anyone else. But, you know, you can’t really sell a movie called MURIEL’S EMANCIPATION to as wide a market as you could MURIEL’S WEDDING. A wedding actually does happen eventually, but it’s so incredibly pragmatic it’s almost like Muriel went to get her driver’s license. I’ll not spoil what happens, since I actually think this movie is worth watching and you already know enough as is.
I’m selling this movie as some sort of miserable ass drama, and while it’s true that I was on the verge of tears a few times, it’s also laugh-out-loud funny. Bill takes a bunch of Japanese businessmen to a Chinese restaurant and keeps trying to impress them with how much he loves THU CULTCHA, and there’s at least two jokes at the expense of a paraplegic character that had me do my best insensitive Michael Bay belly laugh.
As you may have guessed, both the humor and drama are derived from small people with small, petty goals and ambitions. It’s fucking amazing to me that writer/director PJ Hogan went to Hollywood after this and they gave him MY BEST FRIEND’S WEDDING because, you know, ‘s got wedding in it, right? I do recommend his excellent 2003 PETER PAN adaptation with Jason Isaacs as Hook.
I seriously thought this was a fantastic tragicomedy. To anyone who’s ever felt small and insignificant, I would recommend MURIEL’S WEDDING heartily. And, surely, that means everyone?**
*Link! Go to Hibiscus Island!
**okay not Will Smith