It was the small Australian film that could. In 1994, screenwriter-director PJ Hogan crafted an original dramedy about a lost soul with a rich fantasy life who escapes her sadly named seaside town, heads to the big city, and finds everything she didn’t know she wanted. Muriel’s wedding is that rare treasure that seemed to come out of nowhere to become a global hit, making stars of two previously unknown actresses, Toni Collette and Rachel Griffiths. Made for just $9 million, the film has grossed nearly $58 million to date and secured its place among the most beloved movies of the 90s. Hogan created a playground of a movie and the filled with the most unconventional and outlandish characters, including a group of mean girls, a family of aimless goons, an adulterous makeup saleswoman, and a dreamy swimmer looking for a ticket to citizenship. But it’s the relationship between the film’s lead female characters, Muriel (Collette) and Rhonda (Griffiths), that glues all the chaos together and gives the film its heart.
Muriel wants to get married
Muriel Heslop is a high school dropout who lives in the seaside village of Porpoise Spit on the Gold Coast. When she’s not being arrested for shoplifting or ostracized by the “cool” girls in town, she spends her days listening to ABBA songs and fantasizing about the two things she wants in life. life – a fabulous wedding dress and a husband, in that order. At least that’s what she thinks she wants. Muriel’s worldview is based solely on what she sees in the bridal magazines she browses and the music she listens to, and though she witnesses her parents’ dysfunctional marriage and family life messy, she longs to be a blushing bride.
It’s not that Muriel is really looking for Mr. Right, but maybe if she gets a really nice wedding dress, she’ll have a really nice life too. At least that’s what modern bride the magazine tells him. Muriel has a strained relationship with the only man in her life, her father, who never fails to remind her that she is “an absolute disgrace”, but she is too entrenched in her illusory world to realize that a man won’t save her. of his life without direction. Writer-director Hogan lays the groundwork for the film’s theme, leading audiences to believe they’re about to watch a comedy about the clumsy girl meeting the man of her dreams. Turns out it’s not about Muriel meeting a man who saves her from herself – it’s about Muriel meeting Rhonda.
Muriel meets Rhonda
When Muriel embezzles the money from the makeup-selling business owned by her father’s mistress, she brings him up to Hibiscus Island, where she intends to indulge herself with the popular girls’ clique. of Porpoise Spit who spend holidays there together. Unsurprisingly, the mean girls avoid her, leaving Muriel as alone on vacation as she is in her bedroom at home. Enter Rhonda Epinstock, a former classmate and school dropout who happens to be vacationing at the same resort and who recognizes Muriel from her high school days. Rebellious, outspoken and without a single filter from her brain to her mouth, Rhonda is the spark plug that Muriel’s engine was missing.
It is at this moment that Muriel’s wedding focuses on developing the friendship between Muriel and Rhonda. The two form an almost immediate bond, and together they deflate the mean girls when Rhonda drops a bombshell about ways to cheat on one of their husbands. Feeling more secure and not afraid to show her vulnerability, Muriel opens up to Rhonda about how she sees herself. “Sometimes I think I’m nothing. Useless,” she told Rhonda. And for the first time, Muriel hears Rhonda tell her something about herself that she’s never heard from anyone else. “You are nothing, Muriel. You are amazing.” The validation that Muriel never received from her father finally comes from a new friend, and it’s as if Muriel has just received a pair of wings from an angel. She is ready to fly.
Muriel and Rhonda take Sydney by storm
And she flies. Before the Porpoise Spit police can reach her for this little embezzlement issue, Muriel takes off and joins Rhonda in Sydney. Revitalized and renewed, she even decides to change her name to “Mariel”. Her newfound self-esteem attracts the attention of a shy customer at the video store where she works, and although flattered by his attention, she is more interested in hanging out with Rhonda and having a good time. Gone are the days when Muriel… uh… Mariel would sit alone in her room, obsessed with the idea of getting married. She has everything she needs in her friendship with Rhonda, the one person in her life who lifts her up.
Muriel and Rhonda’s friendship takes a dramatic turn, however, when Rhonda is diagnosed with cancer and loses the ability to walk. It is now Muriel who must relieve Rhonda, both literally and figuratively. Disheartened and hopeless, Rhonda almost gives up on living, and now it’s Muriel’s turn to let Rhonda know her own worth. “Since I met you and moved to Sydney,” Muriel told her, “I haven’t listened to a single ABBA song. It’s because my life is so good like an ABBA song. It’s as good as ‘Dancing Queen’. Muriel must now grow up, but without Rhonda as a pillar of strength and support, Muriel begins to return to her old ways. Perhaps out of a need to support Rhonda financially, but more likely In order to escape her new caregiving responsibilities, Muriel responds to a newspaper ad offering $10,000 to a woman who will marry a man so that he obtains Australian nationality.
Much to Muriel’s delight, this man turns out to be a handsome – and wealthy – South African Olympic swimmer named David Van Arkle (Daniel Lapaine). Although David isn’t sure what to make of Muriel at first, she is all for it. David clarifies that he is only doing this to get a gold medal in swimming for Australia. “All my life I wanted to win,” he told her. “Me too,” replies Muriel. Muriel finally gets her dream wedding, with ABBA’s “I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do” as the processional music, but her dream man isn’t someone who loves her. It’s a transaction, and once again, Muriel is unable to establish a genuine relationship with a man.
A Broken Friendship and Redemption
Carried away by the pageantry of her marriage to a famous Olympian and all the publicity and fame that comes with it, Muriel abandons Rhonda. Before returning to Porpoise Spit to be cared for by her mother, Rhonda tells Muriel, “You abandoned me. I needed help. I needed a friend.” It’s a sobering moment for Muriel because she finally sees how she threw away the only genuine relationship she’s ever had for the chance to live out an empty fantasy. Muriel’s loss is compounded when her mother dies, leaving her alone and without emotional support. This is his moment of judgment. Knowing that she cannot continue a life of pretense, she leaves David telling him, “I thought I was a new person, but I’m not. I’ve told so many lies, a day, I won’t know I do.” Muriel removes her wedding ring, symbolizing the end of her imaginary world and the beginning of the reality with which she must deal.
Back at Porpoise Spit for her mother’s funeral, Muriel finally confronts her father. “You owe us, dad. We’re not useless. We never were,” referring to her and her siblings. At this point, her father also comes to a moment of judgment. “You reap what you sow,” he tells her, knowing that his mistakes as a father have left him abandoned by his own family. It’s also time for Muriel to reap what she sowed with Rhonda, so she goes to Rhonda’s house to ask for forgiveness and ask her to come back to Sydney. “What makes you think I’d go anywhere with you?” Rhonda asks scornfully. Muriel only has one simple answer, and it’s something she’s taken far too long to realize. “Because I am your friend.”
That’s all Muriel needs to be happy. As she and Rhonda take a taxi to the airport, bidding farewell to everything that has held them back about Porpoise Spit, audiences can see that it’s the true bond between these two women that will be the foundation. adventures that await them in the big city. Muriel’s wedding is a film that should be praised not only for its wonderful characters and touching storyline, but also for its celebration of two female characters who discover that all they really need is each other. Who needs weddings when you have friends anyway?