Monday, October 12, 2009

Monday Monologue - Mariel's Lament

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JA from MNPP here. Over the weekend I went to a wedding and whenever I go to a wedding my brain becomes enveloped in thoughts of P.J. Hogan's brilliant 1994 tragicomedy Muriel's Wedding. 1994! It was released in Australia the last week of September that year meaning it just turned 15 years old. Happy Anniversary, Muriel! The appropriate gift for 15 years of wedded bliss is crystal, so what do you think? Maybe a chandelier? She's shown an affinity for wearing them on her head before...


Oh just look at him. You know, in the fifteen years that this film's been around I've watched it dozens of times and it still seems unnecessary to me that she abandons her green-card-husband David Van Arkle (Daniel Lapaine) at the end when she decides she needs to stop lying. What could one possibly be lying about, climbing into bed with this?

(more pics from this scene here)

I mean, really. But I'm becoming distracted! I really could spin off into a dozen different directions with this movie, but today I want to look at the "tragi" half of the film's "tragicomedy" because I think it's an aspect of the film that's often undervalued - I know that every time I sit down to watch the film I forget just how tremendously sad so much of the film is. This is a film saturated with loneliness and trauma. Just think of Muriel's mother, Betty (a wonderful Jeanie Drynan)...


... and you'll know I'm right. (Oh Betty!)

Or think of the moment when Muriel's friend Rhonda (Rachel Griffiths) discovers Muriel (who has moved to Sydney and hilariously changed her name to "Mariel") has been sneaking out and getting herself photographed in wedding dresses and confronts her...


Rhonda: What is going on, Mariel? I've seen your wedding album. You've tried on every dress in Syndey.

Mariel: That doesn't mean I'm getting married.

Rhonda: What else does it mean?

Mariel: I want to get married! I've always wanted to get married! If I can get married, it means I've changed, I'm a new person.


Rhonda: How?

Mariel: Because who would want to marry me?

Rhonda: Tim Simms...

Mariel: There is no Tim Simms. I made him up. In Porpoise Spit, no one would even look at me. But when I came to Sydney and became Mariel, Brice asked me out. That proves I'm already different than I was.

And if someone wants to marry me, I'm not her anymore. I'm me.

Rhonda: Her?

Mariel: Muriel! Muriel Heslop! Stupid, fat and useless, I hate her! I'm not going back to being her again!


Why can't it be me? Why can't I be the one?"

The entire film pivots on this moment - her friendship with Rhonda, which until now had been her saving grace, is fractured by the revelation, leading Mariel to marry the speedo-clad David Van Arckle and abandon her friend, only to finally have all that fantasy come crashing down around her with her mother Betty's tragedy.

But what I find most striking about this scene is the fracturing it shows has already happened within Muriel. "Muriel" versus "Mariel" and all the "her" versus "me" talk; the way her entire sense of self has had to split apart in order to even continue functioning, and how that emptiness has opened up a vacuum inside of her that only the approval of others seems to fill. Only she thinks this will make her someone else, a beautiful girl in a crystal crown, a life as good as "Dancing Queen." But it's not until she stops running and faces the demons making her think she's not good enough - it's telling that in this scene she calls herself "useless," which her father calls her and her siblings and mother several times through the film - and realizes that Muriel Heslop is good enough, doggone it, that she's able to really leave Porpoise Spit and all the horrors ("And you three. What a bunch of cocksuckers.") behind for real.

"Goodbye, Porpoise Spit!"
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14 comments:

Leehee said...

Beautiful piece - I LOVE this movie so much, and now you've inspired me to go watch it.

Michael Parsons said...

Ahhh...Toni

foobella said...

YES! Wonderful insight into one of my favorite movies. Thank you for celebrating it.

Anonymous said...

Coincidentally, I watched this again over the weekend. (Can't believe it's been 15 years.) I always remember the wacky bits, but forget about how sad it all really is underneath. Poor Betty.

Chris Na Taraja said...

Oh the scene where her mother is at the doorway of the church for the wedding is heartbreaking and hysterical.

Seeking Amy said...

I seriously dreamt about Muriel's Wedding last night. Weird!

Anonymous said...

Love "Muriel's Wedding"! And I know I would have figured out some way to keep swimhubby around!

FranklinBluth said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
FranklinBluth said...

An absolutely wonderful Australian film, and I'm always surprised when I come across Americans who like it so much, because the film is so unashamedly Australian at times.

Bill Heslop: PERRY... Wake up to yourself!!!

Glenn said...

Yet another stunning masterpiece from 1994.

Y Kant Goran Rite said...

I'm almost ready to forgive Australian cinema's perpetual, crippling mediocrity for the singular gems like this movie. I'm glad it succeeded internationally as well.

And the overlooked 'tragi-' parts are indeed just as sharp as the comedy.

Winny. said...

one of my favourite movies.
awesome post.

Michael said...

i must admit a tear comes to my eye when the scene in the supermarket with the shoes plays

Steolicious said...

I love this movie too, everythings in it works for me. Toni Collette is so funny and adorable :)