best films: #47: MURIEL’S WEDDING (1995)
Confessions: I love Toni Collette. I can’t seem to think of anything of hers that I’ve seen that I haven’t thoroughly enjoyed, and I’ve got to say that my favorite of all of her roles is her star-making turn in the Australian comedy Muriel’s Wedding. Thanks to the songs of ABBA, the no-nonsense sidekickery of Rachel Griffiths, and some seriously 1980s U.S. garb and style, the mid-90s romp is a silly treat. Following the down-on-her-luck Muriel Heslop, an overweight and compulsively lying woman who still lives with her parents – her dad a slimy local politician and her mom an absent-minded housewife – the movie takes Muriel through a multi-thousand dollar theft, a name change, and an arranged marriage. Yep, it’s one of those kinds of movies. And even through her mistakes and, well, criminal activity, you can’t help but love Muriel Heslop, an endearing and congenial character who you root for no matter what pickle she’s gotten herself into. Perhaps the most entertaining thing about the movie is its love for its characters. P.J. Hogan (2003’s Peter Pan) writes Collette’s Muriel and Griffiths’ Rhonda with such a carefree and thoughtful air that you feel as if they’re your sort-of-off-the-wall friends from back home.