Muriel Heslop (Toni Collette) is a sweet, outgoing young woman who’s obsessed with two things: ABBA and getting married. She lives in the tiny Australian town of Porpoise Spit, with a family comprised of aimless siblings, a depressed, overworked mother, and a domineering, verbally abusive father. Muriel’s friends are thin, blonde, tan, and fashionable, everything that she is not. In fact, she doesn’t really have friends at all, just women who put up with her in order to bolster their own self-esteem by imagining that they are somehow superior to her.
When these frenemies dump Muriel, she is so distraught that she dupes her scattered mother, Betty (Jeanie Drynan), and cashes a blank check for $12,000 in order to join them at an expensive resort. After being humiliated by them yet again, Muriel runs into Rhonda Epinstock (Rachel Griffiths), another Porpoise Spit outcast. Rhonda stands up for her, is actually interested in her as a person, and even likes ABBA! It’s the perfect friendship, which marriage-obsessed Muriel starts on a lie, by telling Rhonda that she is engaged.
When confronted by her parents over the stolen money, and having her crooked politician father (Bill Hunter) blame her for sullying his name, Muriel runs to Sydney, and starts a new life with her new best friend, complete with the new name “Mariel”.
Life is sweet in the big city, and Muriel spends her days working at a video store and trying on wedding dresses for her future dream wedding. But things get complicated when vibrant Rhonda needs Muriel for a change, and Muriel gets a proposition of her dreams. She must then choose between being a good friend, or living out her destructive obsession with getting married.
As we watch Muriel grow, and actually appreciate what she has rather than cling to a fairy tale, we see her not only blossom and learn to stand up for herself, but also think about what’s best for her in the here and now, not in some fictitious future.
Muriel’s Wedding isn’t just a comedy, but an étude on peer pressure and how playing Keeping Up With the Jones’ is a recipe for diminished self-worth. Muriel only starts to truly live when she realizes that she can be a whole person all on her own, and not just a half waiting for someone to “complete” her.
I give this one 4.75 stars.