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Muriel’s Wedding

Release date: September 29, 1994
Directed by: P.J. Hogan
Written by: P.J. Hogan
Produced by: Lynda House, Jocelyn Moorhouse
Running time: 106

Muriel (Toni Collette), unemployed, overweight and a hopeless romantic, has always escaped her humdrum small-town life by listening to ABBA songs and dreaming about marriage. Ready to take control of her life, she takes an unexpected opportunity and heads for the big city where she's having the time of her life. Everyone back home suddenly takes notice when Muriel becomes engaged to a handsome and popular sports hero, but Muriel discovers that even when it seems all her dreams are coming true, her path to the altar still has plenty of surprising twists.

Cast & Characters

Toni Collette (Muriel Heslop), Bill Hunter (Bill Heslop), Rachel Griffiths (Rhonda Epinstalk), Matt Day (Brice Nobes), Jeanie Drynan (Betty Heslop), Sophie Lee (Tania Degano), Roz Hammond (Cheryl), Belinda Jarrett (Janine), Pippa Grandison (Nicole), Dan Wyllie (Perry), Gabby Millgate (Joanie), Gennie Nevinson (Deidre Chambers), Chris Haywood (Ken Blundell), Daniel Lapaine (David Van Arkle)

Production Notes

The idea for “Muriel’s Wedding” was born in a coffee shop just down the road from five bridal stores. As director P.J. Hogan and his wife, director and producer Jocelyn Moorhouse, sipped their daily dose of caffeine they began to think about the secret world inside those shops, a realm where only the engaged are allowed, a place where the most potent dreams and desires are temporarily fulfilled, where every woman is for those few moments the most beautiful and loved on earth. They began to peer into the windows, witnessing an extraordinary metamorphosis: women entering as ordinary flawed human beings and turning within into glamorous goddesses. Hogan was struck with the idea of what would happen if this intensely private world were to be invaded by an imposter – someone without a wedding to make it all real – who would go from shop to shop trying on dresses just to get to that feeling. Thus he came up with the irrepressible character of Muriel, who has collected photo albums full of herself as a bride without ever having found a groom. Says Hogan. “I wondered: what would happen if someone still felt entitled to this very exclusive experience without having the man to go with it?” For Muriel, Hogan decided, the whole mythos of marriage had as much to do with finding societal acceptance as it did with finding a mate. “Marriage is showing the world that you can be loved – that you are special for a day. And that’s really Muriel’s dream.- to be accepted.”

“Without the right Muriel, there was no film,”‘ explains Hogan. ‘She had to start out as the ultimate expression of awkwardness, someone who didn’t feel comfortable in her body or her life, but by the end of the movie, she also had to be able to become someone beautiful, someone you could imagine being your best friend.” Originally, Hogan left himself ample room to find the right actress to carry his movie. “I decided to give it three months,” he explains. “But Toni Collette came on the first day of casting. I thought she was wonderful but we had convinced ourselves that it was going to take a long time to find the perfect person. I thought there was no way we could find her this easily.” It took another five weeks of looking before the filmmakers went back to their first instincts, realizing that Toni Collette was indeed Muriel. Collette was thoroughly enamored with the character – having latched onto the internal spirit that makes Muriel so fascinating she even set out to gain the extra pounds that are the bane of Muriel’s external existence.

Hogan’s film took Australia by storm when it opened in 1994. Not only did it introduce two new actors of genuinely stark talent (Toni Collette and Rachel Griffiths), both of whom would become international stars, it satirised an Australian family in a way that audiences found extremely moving, as well as hilarious. Hogan’s depiction of a battler family from a forgettable north coast backwater is relentlessly bleak, but also immensely sympathetic (with more than a passing resemblance to Jane Austen’s Persuasion). Hogan doesn’t create an ironic distance, from which an audience may look down; he keeps us closely identified with his characters so that we see ourselves. Most of this identification is through Muriel, but not all – Hogan is careful to give us a sense of desolation and disappointment that befuddles all members of the Heslop family, from the father down. Bill Hunter’s blustering patriarch is one of Australian cinema’s most pungently awful characters. Although never actually evil, he has raised a tribe of children to believe they’re ‘useless’, and that’s how they behave. Jeanie Drynan, as his wife, has become almost catatonic in her distraction – a portrait of a wasted life that is completely tragic.

“Muriel’s Wedding” received 11 AFI nominations, winning four gongs for Best Film, Best Actress in a Lead Role (Toni Collette), Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Rachel Griffiths) and Best Achievement in Sound. The film proved to be equally successful overseas, with P.J. Hogan receiving nominations for the Writers Guild of America and the BAFTA and Toni Collette receiving nominations for the Golden Globe Award in 1996 and the Chicago Film Critics Association Award.

Awards & Nominations

  AFI Award – Best Actress
  Film Critics Circle of Australia – Best Actress
☆   Golden Globe Award – Best Actress in a Comedy or Musical
☆   Chicago Film Critics Association Awards – Most Promising Actress