Muriel’s Wedding (1994): Hogan’s Serio-Comedy, Starring Toni Collette

P.J. Hogan’s directed Muriel’s Wedding, an Australian serio-comedy with a heartfelt message, starring the then unknown terrific actors, Toni Collette and Rachel Griffiths, both of whom would pursue successful careers in Hollywood.

Grade: B (***1/2* out of *****)

Muriel’s Wedding
Muriels wedding poster.jpg

One of theatrical release posters

The tale focuses on the socially awkward Muriel whose ambition is to improve her personal life by moving to Sydney from her dead-end home town.

The film, which received multiple award nominations, including a Golden Globe Award nomination for Best Actress, was a sleeper all over the world, especially in the U.S.

Collette plays Muriel Heslop, a socially awkward woman, is the target of ridicule by her shallow and egotistical “friends,” Tania, Cheryl, Janine, and Nicole.

She spends her time listening to ABBA songs, daydreaming of a glamorous wedding to get her out of the dead-end town of Porpoise Spit and away from her domineering father, Bill, a corrupt politician who belittles his wife, Betty, and five children.

For a while, the movie follows the norms of the “comedy of humiliation.” Muriel attends the wedding of Tania and Chook, during which she sees Chook and Nicole having sex in a laundry room. Wedding guest Dianne, a department store detective, calls the police on Muriel for stealing the dress she is wearing, and the police publicly escort Muriel out of the reception.

Announcing the arrival of two major actresses–Collette and Griffiths–Muriel’s Wedding was released around the same time of other breakout Aussie features, such as Strictly Ballroom and Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, movies that combined effectively humor with substance, odd quirkiness with heartfelt messages.

The music of ABBA forms the film’s soundtrack: Songwriters Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson allowed their use in the film and permitted their hit, “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”

Cast
Toni Collette as Muriel Heslop
Bill Hunter as Bill Heslop
Rachel Griffiths as Rhonda Epinstall
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

Credits:

Directed, written by P. J. Hogan
Produced by Lynda House, Jocelyn Moorhouse
Music by Peter Best
Cinematography Martin McGrath
Edited by Jill Bilcock

Distributed by Miramax Films

Release date: September 29, 1994 (Australia); March 10 1995 (US)

Running time: 101 minutes
Budget $9 million
Box office $57.5 million

Note:

TCM showed the movie on May 4, 2021.