It takes the entire film for Muriel (Toni Collette) to realize what is apparent from the beginning of her story. She is a warm, wonderful, worthy, funny human being.
The barriers to Muriel's happiness appear to be a lack of physical beauty, her friends are all slender and sexy, she is clumsy and heavy. But the real problem she faces is her father's dominance, which he uses to push his children ahead. He constantly criticizes the kids', attempting to rush them along rather than helping with praise. His constant attacks leave Muriel and her siblings void of confidence, security and ambition.
Muriel's journey toward self-respect is twisted, unusual and delightful to watch. At the end I wanted to stand and cheer this terrific young woman who finally has the strength to make her mark as an independent person.
Director P.J. Hogan moves Muriel in and out of beauty and homely states with ease. With camera angles and extreme facial expressions she looks worm and beautiful at one moment, then dumpy and silly in the next.
Muriel's friends except one are hollow and vicious. They are as self-centered as her father, a local political leader, who is in trouble with the law and who cheats on his demure, faithful, loyal wife.
The sound track filled with 70s music is her escape. I guess people go back to adolescence to find refuge or with the hope those years might change and therefore change lives. The music, particularly Dancing Queen by ABBA, continually fills the background. "You can dance, you can jive having the time of your life" is the line she dreams of and which she holds herself together with.
Muriel has one asset beyond her own hidden intrinsic value, her friend Rhonda (Rachel Griffith). She is the spark that ignites Muriel and it is their friendship that endures.
Hooray for these two young women who ratchet up each others confidence and dreams. They are wonderful. Muriel's Wedding is a joy to experience.