Words || Sara Zarriello
It is fair to say I have a conflicted relationship with the film, Muriel’s Wedding. I don’t like to watch movies that make me cry and boy was this a mistake – I was not expecting the rollercoaster that I was unwillingly taken on. See the gossip around town was that the film was nothing short of a great time, a true Aussie classic. My mind instantly reverts to Guy Pearce sitting in that shoe on top of Priscilla, living his best life. So the equally light-hearted and heartbreaking story of Muriel Heslop on her troubled journey to freedom was not what I had in mind.
Muriel lives in a small town named Porpoise Spit, a little bogan-ish if I do say so myself, and who is the sheltered daughter of a local politician who mentally and verbally abuses his wife and children. Muriel doesn’t fit in anywhere. Not at home, not with her permed haired friends and definitely not in Porpoise Spit. The only comfort she has is her absolutely fantastically life saving ABBA collection which she listens to on repeat! Relatable!
Yet Muriel has a dream to leave her life behind and become her own version of a “Dancing queen” – through marriage. Considering she has no other options; marriage is her ticket out of Porpoise Spit and into a life of choices. And so after one illegally obtained holiday later Muriel’s got herself an old school friend as her new bestie, Rhonda. A few more illegally acquired cheques and Muriel and Rhonda move to Sydney, just living that hot single-girl summer life. Soon Muriel becomes Mariel.
Mariel has a job, friends, romance, she parties hard and lives large. But Muriel’s lies start to catch up with Mariel as soon as she marries a foreign professional swimmer called David. Up until this point, Muriel has been chasing a life that is perfect, and because she is ignorant to the truth, a life that the audience knows to be completely unattainable. And it is the fact that this fantasy is what is driving Muriel and her choices which is the saddest part. We’ve all been there, we’ve all had dreams we wanted to turn into reality but never did even while consuming copious hours of ABBA tracks – nothing changes if we do things for the wrong reasons. Karma am I right?
Major factors such as Muriel not picking up the phone when her mother calls and her pushing away Rhonda for her old bratty friends – foreshadow Muriel’s fall from grace. I believe the hardest part of being invested in a story is when the main character strays from their truth. I so badly want Muriel to be good and kind and still have everything she’s wanted and worked hard for so long. But alas I am a simpleton who had no part in creating Muriel therefore I must sit back and watch while the onslaught of karma arrives at Muriel’s doorstep, whilst dragging the tissue box closer.
It may be the fact that Muriel lives in a constant state of limbo wherever she goes that is the worst part. Sometimes she’s Muriel, sometimes she’s Mariel and sometimes she’s no one at all. Muriel’s determination to leave Porpoise Spit is ground breaking, but her efforts in doing so are not. In her pursuit of friendship, she rightfully flips off her old group and finds a true friend but then flips her off in the name of popularity. She is so determined to marry, that she marries anyone even if the guy is just using her to get a permanent visa. Although I have to say David turns out to be quite the gentleman so don’t hate on him, he’s just as clueless as Muriel!
For all these heartbreaking reasons, I believe we may all be a little bit of Muriel. We have dreams and passions which propel us only so far, it may well be our wits which get us further. We want to live boldly and with people who do the same, but sometimes we forget who’s been there the entire time. We try hard. And so does Muriel. So in the end we finally figure out, just like Muriel does, that to succeed in life is to be happy and to do so money and fame only go so far – it’s the people we love and who love us back which keep us whole.
So on that cheesy note, give Muriel Heslop a chance! Because I promise you, she’ll absolutely annihilate your heart.