Saturday, May 28, 2016

Lazy Movie Weekend: It's as good as Dancing Queen

I have a very specific memory of my 18th birthday: I'm sitting in my bedroom in lovely Burke, VA writing in my journal (because that's what we all did) and listening to the song "Dancing Queen". I don't remember if this was later in the evening after celebrating or sometime during the day. I just remember sitting there listening to that song and thinking of one of my favorite movies Muriel's Wedding. At one point in the movie, Muriel says she hasn't listened to any ABBA songs because her life is as good as an ABBA; "It's as good as Dancing Queen." I guess that's what I was thinking about that day; one day my life would be as good as an ABBA song.

I've seen this movie a hundred (probably). It's not a completely happy rom-com but it's funny and dark and sad and genius all at the same time. This is one of my favorite Australian comedies followed closely by Strictly Ballroom. The 1990s were a prime time for Australian movies that didn't involve Baz Luhrmann. 

I just got back home from attending my cousin's beautiful wedding so I thought we'd spend this long, lazy movie weekend celebrating all things love and weddings with a trip back to 1994 and Muriel's adventures in Porpoise Spit, Australia. Grab your favorite girly drink, some wedding cake, and your best ABBA inspired dance moves and settle in for Muriel's Wedding.

  • This was Rachel Griffiths first movie and Toni Collette's second. The movie was a huge international hit and would propel them both into larger roles and Hollywood fame.
  • PJ Hogan, the film's director, had to beg the members of ABBA to allow the use of their music in the film. They agreed (for a share of the profits) and were pleasantly surprised when the film was so successful. Muriel's Wedding is the reason the musical Mamma Mia!, the Broadway musical (and it's sad film sister) exist. 
  • The movie is #911 on Steven Schneider's 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die.
  • Let's talk about the opening sequence at the wedding - that is my nightmare. All the single women going crazy at the thought of catching the bouquet so they can be "next." It's one of those scenes that reminds us all about how ridiculous some traditions are and how primal women can be. Thank you to all my friends who have gotten married and not done this at the reception. Your resident single friend appreciates it more than you know. 
  • Muriel's "friends" are the absolute worst - apparently it's a rule that in every rom-com there has to be a group of women who are terrible. I'll refer to this group as the "Aussie Plastics" for the rest of this post (Means Girls will be a future LMW. I promise.)
  • Those bridesmaids dresses - the color, the poof, the bow, the headpiece. Bridesmaids dresses are just mean.
  • Why would you waste cake by putting it under your pillow to dream of the man you're going to marry? My future husband would know (instinctually, of course) that we don't waste cake like this. Cake is for enjoying not for napping on.
  • Someone is a bad bridesmaid and an even worse husband. Now Muriel has secrets. 
  • Are store detectives a thing? Does anyone know a store detective? I'd really like to meet one.
  • Just remember, Porpoise Spit is the jewel of the North Coast.
  • "You're terrible, Muriel." Muriel's sister, Joanie. The Heslop family is a lot to take in. The horrible dad (played by the brilliant Bill Hunter), the sad mom, the laziest children ever. This is why Muriel listens to ABBA songs.
  • "Bill Heslop - You Can't Stop Progress" Joanie: He lost. It's so funny.
  • F-ing Deidre Chambers - that's how I refer to this woman every time she's on screen. Her geisha comment is one of the worst casually racist comments in the entire film (and there are several).
  • I hate the scene at Breakers (the most cliched beach bar name ever). It's funny on some levels ("Like Chuck. He's up on my level.") but so soul-crushing on others. "I'm know I'm not normal..." and Muriel shouting "I'm not nothing!" - this is a darker rom-com than most. We haven't gotten to the plot line involving cancer yet.
  • "I'm going to be a success, Mum. I'm going to get married and be a success." I don't like this definition of success but I'm saying it in my head as I type in an Australian accent. 
  • My second nightmare: all inclusive resort trips. Mandatory fun at it's worst but Muriel seems to be having a great time. 
  • Finally we meet Rhonda (Rachel Griffiths). She is the cool friend everyone needs in their life. She's a badass, super fun, and does not give any effs about the Aussie Plastics. It's genius. "You're wicked!" 
  • "I'm not alone. I'm with Muriel." Love it!
  • That "Waterloo" lip sync is amazing. I'm hopeful that the show Lip Sync Battle will get Toni and Rachel to come on and recreate this amazing moment. Someone should call them and make this happen.
  •  Muriel: Do you ever think you're nothing? Sometimes I think I'm nothing. Rhonda: You're not nothing, Muriel. You're amazing. Of course this is followed by Rhonda talking about how awesome it is that Muriel has a fiancee, Tim Sims (fake of course). His name is based on two popular snacks in Australia, Tim Tams and Dim Sims.
  • Is Sydney really the City of Brides?
  • Muriel's haircut is one of my favorite things in the movie. The power of a flattering haircut cannot be overstated. 
  • Poor Brice. Muriel should have given him more of chance. "I'm a terrible dancer." We all are, Brice. We all are.
  • I'm fairly certain we've all had nights/dates like Muriel and Brice's minus the cancer, naked American soldier, and broken window. I don't know everyone's life so maybe this is exactly how your Friday nights go down. The thought I always have during this sequence is that Rhonda and Muriel need real furniture in their living room.
  • Rhonda is rushed to the hospital and Muriel calls home to find out that they know she stole all their money. "Dr. Farrell says he needs a holiday from us." Muriel's mom, Betty, tells her.
  • So if you best friend is in the hospital and has to have surgery to remove a discreet tumor from her spine and your family is a mess, what do you do? If you're Muriel you try on every wedding dress in Sydney and tell lies to get the sales girls to take photos of you in them so you can take the photos to your sister who's in a coma. Seems legit.
  • Muriel's pep talk to Rhonda: "When I lived in Porpoise Spit, I used to sit in my room for hours and listen to ABBA songs. But since I've met you and moved to Sydney, I haven't listened to one Abba song. That's because my life is as good as an Abba song. It's as good as Dancing Queen."
  • Of course Rhonda finds out about the wedding dresses and that Tim Sims was fake. Muriel is basically all of us when it comes to be single and hating it: "If I can get married it means I've changed. I'm a new person." 
  • F-ing Deidre Chambers. Seriously this woman. Bill Heslop cannot help himself with embarrassing restaurant business meetings.
  • Muriel's second way of dealing with problems: Enter into a marriage of convenience with a South African swimmer with Olympic hopes who needs an Australian wife to qualify for the team. As one does. She also reverts to listening to "Dancing Queen" again so maybe her life isn't as good anymore.
  • Mariel's Wedding (did I mention she changed her name?): So many things...
    • The Aussie Plastics are back as bridesmaids, looking like peach tulle nightmares.
    • F-ing Deidre Chambers is apparently Muriel's mom now.
    • Muriel's mom barely makes it to the wedding and Muriel ignores her (not intentionally).
    • Poor Brice ends up attending for some unknown, masochistic reason.
    • "Mariel, you're beautiful." - Tania (Aussie Plastic)
    • "I Do, I Do, I Do" is her entrance music - perfect. I would probably do something like this if I ever got married.
    •  David's coach, "I should have hired you some friends." 
  •  Friend breakups are the worst thing in the world. Rhonda sums it up perfectly, "Mariel VanArckle stinks."
  • David is an interesting character. He judges Muriel so much for wanting to do the same thing he wants to do: win. The problem is that she believes she can win only if she's married. Someone needs to sit Muriel down and talk about life choices. 
  • Muriel's mom makes my heart sad. She deserved a lot more than her husband and most of her children gave her. Joanie's grief is so powerful. Her father is terrible and that stupid letter from a former Prime Minister is the worst. 
  • Muriel finally realizes it's not about being married but about being her - her awesome self. David also shows up too and that's not awkward at all. "I don't love you either but I think I could like having you around."
  • She finally tells her dad what's what and it's a great scene between the two of them in the burned up backyard. "We're not nothing." 
  • The final scene with the Aussie Plastics and Rhonda's mom is one of my favorites in the movie. Tania screams, "I'm married. I'm beautiful!" and you have to laugh. Muriel and Rhonda say goodbye to Porpoise Spit as they should. The only question I have is did Rhonda's mom send her all her stuff? Is that how it all worked in the end.
I love this movie for so many reasons. Muriel is us all; looking for her place in the world and trying to figure out who she is. I like knowing that Toni Collette and Rachel Griffiths became friends during filming; you can see their actual friendship on screen. It's the best part of the entire movie. Muriel is amazing; she just has to figure that out for herself.

In need of more wedding movies for your long weekend? Here are few more of my favorites:
  • Bridesmaids
  • Monsoon Wedding
  • The Wedding Planner
  • Corpse Bride 
  • My Big Fat Greek Wedding
  • Mystic Pizza
  • The Wedding Singer
  • Rachel Getting Married
  • Mamma Mia! -  I can't help but love this movie. Pierce Brosnan should never, ever sing but I will listen to him sing "S.O.S" in this movie and love it every time.
1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die
Promo Poster
Muriel at the wedding
Muriel's Wedding 

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