"Muriel's Wedding" has been getting rave reviews nationally, but I was underwhelmed by this comedy-tragedy about an overweight misfit whose dysfunctional family and hypocritical friends push her toward anti-social behavior.
The film begins as Muriel (Toni Collette), the ugly duckling of her small hometown - Porpoise Spit, Australia - catches the bouquet at the wedding of one of her circle of "friends." She is immediately berated by them and told to give it back, however, since another young woman is supposed to be wed next.
A frequent shoplifter and Abba fanatic (and like "The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert," this Australian film features quite a few Abba songs on the sound-track), Muriel lives with her parents - an unctuous, corrupt local politician (Bill Hunter) and his mousy, put-upon wife. With them also are Muriel's layabout, do-nothing siblings.
Eventually, Muriel decides to leave this life, stealing a stipend from her father to get her started. And with encouragement from a free-spirited new friend (Rachel Griffiths, who resembles Juliette, she eventually lands in Sydney and fends for herself. Sort of. But when tragedy strikes her friend, her life begins to unravel . . . again.
There are some funny and inventive sequences here - though writer-director P.J. Hogan favors the bawdy and gaudy - but for the most part "Muriel's Wedding" is disappointingly simplistic and cliched, an eccentric cross between the '60s hit "Georgy Girl" and another Australian movie, Jane Campion's "Sweetie."
"Muriel's Wedding" is rated R for violence, sex, nudity, profanity, vulgarity.