A few friends have been noting of late it’s twenty years since the film, “Muriel’s Wedding” was released. I guess it was the article in the Sydney Morning Herald the other day which prompted most of the nostalgia.
For a lot of people, “Muriel’s Wedding” is a light-hearted comedy. For me, it’s actually a heart-felt comic-drama that has usually brought me to tears on the many, many occasions I’ve watched the film.
The first time I saw “Muriel’s Wedding” was at a cinema in Canberra. I was living in Wagga Wagga at the time. Of course there are many laugh out loud moments in the film. But there were also some very sad scenes in the film. In particular, the scenes surrounding the death of the mother. I’d lost my own “mum” at a young age, only a decade earlier. Co-incidentally, my “mum” was also called Betty, and in many ways, she was also neglected and abused by many parts of her extended family. The similarities upset me even now.
Months later, I was living in Sydney, and a couple of my very close relatives, Pat and Michelle, came to visit me. I took them to see the movie at the Cremorne Orpheum, knowing they’d “understand” the film in the same way I did, and they did. In the darkness of the cinema, I suspect they also shed a few tears.
Growing up on the NSW North Coast – not far from the mythical Porpoise Spit – I “knew” those bitches who made fun of Muriel. I could name every one of them. And while I wasn’t Muriel, per se – though I did sit in my room and listen to ABBA songs – I knew the girls who were “Muriel”. They were also taunted, made fun of by the likes of Tanya.
Throughout my life, I’ve suffered with many of the self-doubts and low self-esteem that Muriel encountered. In lots of ways I’ve been much more fortunate than “Muriel”. I’ve had a good job which has allowed me to move to different parts of Australia. I’ve never had to work in a video store :) But like Muriel, I chose to “escape” the small-town narrow-mindedness of “Porpoise Spit”.
One of my favourite lines – for many reasons – from the film is when Muriel says “When I lived in Porpoise Spit, I used to sit in my room for hours and listen to ABBA songs. But since I’ve met you and moved to Sydney, I haven’t listened to one Abba song. That’s because my life is as good as an Abba song. It’s as good as Dancing Queen.” Though it’s ostensibly about a geographic shift, the line is also about a shift in a state of mind. I don’t dislike the North Coast, but I know I’m probably happier living here in Sydney.
Throughout the years, “Muriel’s Wedding” has remained with me.
Memorably, I was in the car with Pat a few years ago. We were doing a “blocky”. I should explain a “blocky” is what you do when you live in a country town and you’re feeling a little bored. You hop in the car and you drive around “the block” which is the main shopping district. As the song by ABBA, “Dancing Queen” came on the radio, without prompting, we began to adapt to a local setting the lines from the closing scene of “Muriel’s Wedding” where Muriel and Rhonda say “Goodbye Porpoise Spit”.
If, like me, you grew up on the NSW North Coast during the 70s and 80s, and were a little bit “not of the mainstream”, “Muriel’s Wedding” can mean so much more than a light-hearted comedy.