Muriel's Wedding (1994)

Movie information

Introduction:

A presentation for H231 Australian Cinema
by
Olive Towse
Tutor: Garry Gillard

Topics of Discussion:

List of Principal Cast members

Director, scriptwriter, cinematographer

Release dates

Box Office figures

The Movie’s on-line presence in web literature

How I collected my research

List of Pricipal Cast Members:

Cast (in credits order)

Nathan Kaye …Chook

Daniel Lapaine … David Van Arckle

Rohan Jones

Scott Hall-Watson

Craig Olson

Justin Witham …Restaurant boys

Rodney Arnold …ejected Diner

Barry Crocker …as himself

Steve Cox …Cruise taxi driver

Kevin Copeland

James Schramko …Sailors

Richard Morecroft …as himself

Richard Carter(vi) …Federal Policeman

John Gaden …Doctor

Heather Mitchell(1) …Bridal Manageress #1

Heidi La Paine …Bridal assistant #1

Diane Smith (1) …Physiotherapist

Darrin Klimek …Rhonda’s taxi driver

Penne Hackforth-Jones …Bridal Manageress #2

Kirsty Hinchcliffe …Bridal Assistant #2

Robert Alexander (1) …Barrister

Troy Hardy …Young Boy

Robyn Oitt Owen …Singer at Muriel’s wedding

Annie Byron …Rhonda’s mother

Jacqueline Linke

Alvaro Marques

Fiona Sullivan

Ineke Rapp

Julian Garner …Press members at Muriel’s wedding

Vincent Ball (1) …Priest

John Hoare (11) …Well-wisher at Muriel’s wedding

Frankie Davidson …Sergeant

Louise Cullen …Deidre’s friend

Basil Clarke …Funeral Priest

John Walton (11) …Taxi driver

Directed by

    1. J. Hogan

Writing credits

    1. J. Hogan (also story)

Produced by

Michael D. Aglion (associate)

Lynda House

Tony Mahood (associate)

Jocelyn Moorhouse

Original Music by

Peter Best (1)

Cinematography by

Martin McGrath

Film Editing by

Jill Bilcock

Casting

Alison Barrett

Production Design By

Paddy Reardon

Art Direction

Hugh Bateup

Set Decoration

Glen W. Johnson

Jane Murphy

Costume Design by

Terry Ryan

Makeup Department

Margaret Archman …makeup assistant: Queensland

Carolyn Nott …makeup assistant: Queensland

Noriko Watanabe(1) …hair/makeup supervisor

Noreen Wilkie …hair/makeup assistant

Jan Zeigenbein …hair stylist

Production Management

Catherine Bishop …production manager

Nick Fenby …production manager: Queensland

Simon Hawkins …unit production manager

Second Unit Director or Assistant Director

Karen Mahood …third assistant director

Tony Mahood …first assistant director

John Martin (111) …second assistant director

Angela McPherson …third assistant director: Queensland

Sound Department

Steve Burgess (1) …foley artist

Helen Field (11) …sound liason

Jack Friedman …boom operator

James Harvey (111) …assistant sound editor

David Lee (111) … sound

Gerard Long …foley artist

Glenn Newnham … sound

Paul Pirola …adr recordist

Livia Ruzic … sound

Roger Savage … sound

Special Effects

Ray Fowler …special effects co-ordinator

Stunts

Rocky McDonald …stunt co-ordinator

All of these plus various other crew including electricians, props, still photographers, gaffers and many more.

Production Companies

CiBy 2000 (fr)

House & Moorhouse Films

Miramax Films (us)

The Australian Film Finance Corporation (au)

Distributors

Mundial Films (Argentina)

Lauren Films (es) Spain

Miramax Films (us)

Gativideo (ar) (Argentina, video)

Roadshow Film Distributors

MPAA: Rated R for sex-related dialogue and some sexuality.

Runtime: Australia: 106 / USA: 105 / UK: 105 / Argentina: 106/

Germany: 105

Country: Australia

Language: English

Color: Color

Sound Mix: Dolby

Certification: Australia: M / USA: R / UK: 15 / Germany: 12 /

Portugal: M/12 / Spain: 13 / Sweden: 11 / Argentina: 16 / Finland: S

Release Dates for Muriel’s Wedding (1994):

Canada 15 September 1994

France 26 October 1994

Germany 19 January 1995

Spain 17 February 1995

USA 10 March 1995

UK 14 April 1995

Netherlands 4 May 1995

Denmark 12 May 1995

Portugal 22 December 1995

Japan 12 October 1996

Venezuela 9 June 1999

Business Data:

Budget:

$3m (USA)

Gross:

$42.3m (Non-USA)

SEK 6,407.015 (Sweden)

œ 7.545m (UK) (16 July 1995)

œ 6.659m (UK) (18 June 1995)

œ 3.492m (UK) (18 May 1995)

$15.185m (USA)

$57.5m (worldwide)

Admissions:

275,424 (France) (29 November 1994)

100,477 (Sweden)

The data for this introduction was collected from the world wide web at IMOb Movies an Amazon.com site. Hhtp ://us.imbd.com/business?0110598.

Extra data for the following critique was acquired from the CD ROM called The History of Australian Film 1885 - 1996 (Celluloid Heroes). There is many sites on the web where information can be obtained on this, and any other movies.

Critical Review of Muriel’s Wedding (1994).

The first impression of this film is that it is in the genre of Comedy/Romance, but as it unfolds the complexities of the characters, and situations reveal themselves. Therefore tragedy could be added as a genre. The story of Muriel’s life in Porpoise Bay shows that it is boring, and she escapes by playing Abba records alone in her room to console herself.

After attending the wedding of one of the local girl groupies, at which she catches the bouquet, and is made to return it, she follows them to a holiday resort where she meets up with an old school friend called Rhonda. Together they win a miming competition, (Abba songs, of course). They then move to Sydney together, and there life changes for Muriel who changes her name to Mariel. Life gets faster for her in the city away from her dull family, Muriel changes in herself, and grows up in every sense of the word. The change is drastic, this also applies to Rhonda, but in a different, sadder way.

Although at the beginning of the film Muriel’s life is dull and boring, it soon becomes obvious that it won’t stay that way, and this is because of the directorship of P. J. Hogan’s sympathetic handling of Muriel and her mother in their roles. In the end Muriel is triumphant over the local girl’s who have always mocked her, and it ends with she and Rhonda, after having returned to Porpoise Bay despite all it stood for, going back to Sydney for good.

In my opinion it is a film dealing with all the inadequacies of life in Porpoise Bay. Not only is Muriel’s family non-functional in its relationships and lifestyle, but also socially dysfunctional. Her father who is the local council president has many problems including being investigated for embezzlement. His life is, if taken form his point of view, a travesty, the apposite side of the coin to Muriel’s in that it gets worse instead of better. The other inhabitants of the Bay are also dysfunctional in as much as their expectancies are reflected by their behaviour and gossip, and small mindedness, and the way in which they treat Muriel and Rhonda. Their sad lives are projected on to the screen as funny and amusing, but there is underlying this the sadness and ugliness often portrayed as undertones in Australian cinema. "A modern-day fairy tale set against some wickedly observed and often hilarious social observations on Australian culture about an ugly duckling…"(1) These undertones are also present in Priscilla Queen of the Desert depicted by the treatment of the cross dressing artistes who are the main characters. Nevertheless Muriel’s Wedding is an entertaining and amusing film, and a product of its time. It fits into a "feminine" film category, but the character of Bill Heslop the father could present a male interpretation if it had been written from his perspective instead of Muriel’s.

The 1990s saw changes to government funding as 10BA tax concessions were gradually withdrawn to be replaced by the Australian Film Finance Corporation (FFC) who put in place a subsidy system, but this could only be drawn upon once the initial funding had been raised by the film producers. This started an international interest in Australian cinema as an outlet for investment. Socially in the 1990s there was more interest in multiculturalism and cultural diversities, and this latter category is where Muriel’s Wedding belongs, in as much as it is a woman centered story set in urbanity and regionality. Some of the elements necessary according to Tom O’Regan in his book Australian National Cinema . He also states that "Australian cinema….provide cultural information about the Australian people and their relation to other peoples."(2) Another important aspect of this movie is that some of the finance was from France, and it was also backed by Miramax(us), and distributed by Roadshow Film Distributors. The 1990s were also the beginning of international interest in the financing of the Australian cinema, and thereby projecting them into a world wide market. Although "Priscilla" earned more in the Australian box office $16.4m(1994) to "Muriel’s" $15.7m (1994), overseas it proved much stronger as it grossed "$US57.5m including $US15.1m in the U.S.. The UK was the top foreign territory outside Australia, followed by France and Germany."(3)

As director and scriptwriter P. J. Hogan helped promote Australian cinema internationally with this typically Australian movie. It also earned him various awards world wide. In 1994 he received an AFI award for Best director and Best original screenplay, in 1996 he received a BAFTA award for Best Original screenplay. Again in 1996 from the Writers Guild of America (usa) he won a WGA award for the Best screenplay written directly for the screen. Since Muriel’s Wedding he has directed My Best Friend’s Wedding (1997, New Kid on the Block (1999), and recently Unconditional Love (2000) of which he was co-writer. This information was obtained from the IMDb web site which is another area at where he and his films are viewed internationally.

The two main producers of the film were Jocelyn Moorhouse, and Lynda House, the former is the partner of P. J. Hogan but well accredited in her own right having directed films such as How to make an American Quilt (1995), and A Thousand Acres (1997). She is also co-writer of Unconditional Love (2000) with her partner. Since "Muriel" the other producer Lynda House has produced River Street(1997) , and The Missing (1999).

The cinematographer for the film was Martin McGrath who has worked extensively since 1982 with Snow: The Movie(1982). He has worked not just in the cinema but also on television with such series as Boys From the Bush(1991) and Blue Murder (1995) and others. Some of his movie achievements include The Sound of One Hand Clapping(1998) and Passion (1999) ((aka) Passion: The Story of Percy Grainger(1999)). He shot Muriel’s Wedding at locations such as Queensland, Coolangatta and Sydney N.S.W. Australia. As director of photography the choice of locations showed through the eye of the camera to the world that although the characters’ lives were dull and mundane the Australian scenery was bright and inviting, even though unpleasant events could still happen in this sunny paradise on the East Coast.

Two other important elements were contributed by Peter Best - composer, and Ray Fowler - special effects/filmographer. Best has been composing for films since 1972 with the film The Adventures of Barry McKenzie , his other accomplishments include Bliss (1985) , Crocodile Dundee (1986) , and his latest is The Sugar Factory (1999) . The use of ABBA through the film produced a continuity, although it was unexpected in some places such as "the sudden sound of the strains of Abba’s ‘I do, I do, I do’ as Muriel starts her march down the aisle…"(4) Ray Fowler is well known for his special effects, and since Muriel has worked on Shine (1996) , Dark City(1998) , and The Matrix (1999) in which the effects were spectacular. Previously, before Muriel he had been responsible for the rain effects in Kokoda Cresent (1994) and in Country Life (1994). He was also special effects assistant in Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1985).

The four main characters Muriel, Rhonda, Bill and Betty Heslop are played by Toni Collette, Rachel Griffiths, Bill Hunter and Jeanie Drynan. Griffiths, Hunter and Drynan have also appeared on television in mini series, and on panel shows. Collette, Griffiths and David Lapaine, who played David Van Arkle who married Muriel, have all gone on to International stardom, and to work in America. Collette had great success in 1999 withThe Sixth Sense , Griffiths with Me Myself I (1999) , and Lapaine with Double Jeopardy (1999) . Jeanie Drynan is a much under-rated actor, she was overlooked by the AFI awards in favour of Rachael Griffiths, but she is still playing roles on Australian television. At the present she is in Something in the Air on ABC weeknights at 6-30pm. Her role as Muriel’s mother was the central catalyst in many of the ensuing problems, not by her involvement in them, but because of her apathy.

In Australian Cinema Tom O’Regan tells us that "Far from being eccentric, Paul J. Hogan’s casting and storytelling sits within a well-represented strand of Australian storytelling."(5) Besides being an Australian mundane, national film, (the content was ordinary Australians in ordinary situations), it was a popular film which because of its circulating in film festivals also gave it prestige, and its international appeal was due to its being a medium sized English language movie, therefore appealing to those countries where English is spoken.

Because of its international popularity, financing and world wide promotion according to Tim O’Regan "It is critisized for capitulation."(6) Some actors such as Bryan Brown have been very verbal into what they regard as ‘selling out’ Australian cinema, whilst others like Russell Crowe (although New Zealand born) feel that as the world becomes more global, so should Australian cinema, and its actors. Bryan Brown’s motives to keep a National cinema unscathed from outside influences "Every national cinema activist negotiates to win ground for its national cinema…(7) although commendable appears to be a rather introverted conception, global progress would be a hard occurrence to stop, and "National cinemas can expect to be no more than a junior partner to the dominant international cinemas."(8) Hollywood would certainly come under the umbrella of a dominant cinema, and therefore a difficult opponent. So in an industry such as national cinema where because of the financial structures since the early nineties, production costs have to be met, financial backers investments protected, and a profit that has to be made, there does not seem to be a great deal of room for national cinematic patriotism. Movies in this area are getting channeled into the art, short film products, and festival cinemas not only in Australia, but world wide.

Australian cinema according to O’Regan has a recurring ugliness, not just the ordinariness of the actors, but also of the content of the story. It is often represented as daggy and mundane, and sometimes he tells us "this centring of the ordinary….is seen as a mistake."(9) It has become a known feature of Australian film making. It could also be said that this mundane ugliness is the endearing factor that draws an audience to the central characters. "Rapport and recognition are partly dependent on an Australian cultural training in recognisable types and situations."(10) In film of the 1970s the Australian persona was shown as ‘ocker’, the preferable crass, beer drinking good bloke/mate, as in Bruce Beresford’s The Adventures of Barry McKenzie (1972) , and later in 1986 Peter Faiman’s Crocodile Dundee . An exception to this ‘norm’! was Peter Weir’s 1975 movie Picnic at Hanging Rock , although even here there to are the subtle tones of ugliness - "feminism, lesbianism and social class….(11)-even the rocks had an ugliness through their menacing aura, and the way in which the disappeared through the gaps in them.

Despite the previously mentioned characteristics Muriel’s Wedding was a huge success, especially internationally. Its appeal through - Muriel’s expectations - her fathers misuse of his position - her mothers eventual suicide - Rhonda’s cancer were all elements that an audience could relate to and with, a plausible story. Tom O’Regan’s comment that "The attention to Australian aesthetic traditions turns on ‘Australian distinctiveness and making a distinct contribution to the cinema."(12) was made about Sylvania Waters (Hill and Woods 1992) a TV documentary series, but could equally have been a statement about Muriel’s Wedding , they both were less accepted in Australia than internationally, especially in Britain were they were extremely popular. It could be their ‘ordinariness’ which gave them such appeal to their audiences, and as in the case of Muriel its enduring popularity. Whether one accepts this viewpoint depends on who, and where they see themselves in a cultural context, many do not see the situations in Muriel as pertaining in any way to their own existence, and therefore sees Australian cinema as tacky and mundane.

The future of Australian cinema depends on how the making and producing of films progress, and in which direction they travel, now that there is a more multicultural population, especially in the cities, perhaps we may see a Chinese version of Muriel, although the humour and cultural situations would have a different slant, and appeal to a different audience such as China or Hong Kong. As a product of its time Muriel was a stepping stone for Australian cinema, and its actors into the global arena, the fast changing arena of the new millennium. A national cinema and films like Muriel’s Wedding , through a cultural approach provides, not just amusement for the cinephile, but a venue for new actors to learn their trade, and for cinematographers, producers and directors to put their own mark on their own, and others, work. No one having watched Muriel’s Wedding could place it in any other culture except Australian culture. Australian mateship is present in the movie - the girl’s group, and the boy’s group on Hibiscus Island - as is Australian optimism, ‘she’ll be right’ attitude, both Rhonda and Muriel look at life as eventually coming good, despite the hardships that they meet along the way. "Australian cinema inevitably shapes this culture in both senses and is in turn shaped by it."(13) This comment of Tom O’Regans sums up Australian films and in particular Muriel’s Wedding.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

  1. Celluloid Heroes - The History of Australian Film 1885-1996

Webster Publishing (1996) CD ROM.

  1. Regan, Tom Australian National Cinema (1996) Routledge

London. P.17

  1. Celluloid Heroes - The History of Australian Film 1885-1996

Webster Publishing (1996) CD ROM.

  1. Australian Film 1978-1994 A Short Survey of Theatrical

Features Compiles & Edited by Scott Murray(1995) Oxford

University Press Melbourne Australia p.389

  1. O’Regan Tom Australian National Cinema (1996) Routledge

London p.245

  1. ibid p.125
  2. ibid p.48
  3. ibid p.48
  4. ibid p.245
  5. ibid p.246
  6. ibid p.145
  7. ibid p.161
  8. ibid p.19