Unemployed and unappreciated, Paul J. Hogan was in a seriously 'down' period back in
1988, and he would sit forlornly at his favourite Melbourne coffee shop, pondering and
introspecting. Across the road, a bridal wear shop had fresh faced young women coming and
going: "I got fascinated by the girls going in and getting transformed into
brides," he says, his depression long ago lifted. "What if one was an imposter?
I wondered. Unwanted, but wanting something ..."
"She doesn't have a talent for anything except being
This was the trigger for Muriel's Wedding, in which Muriel (Toni Collette) does indeed
impersonate a bride-to-be at several shops, by way of manufacturing the sensation of being
wanted and loved.
"I wanted to put a character like Muriel on the screen...I'd had enough of the
homogenised, beautiful leads characterised by an act of heroism. I wanted to see a
character like I once felt - not good for anything, but with a desire to be noticed. She
doesn't have a talent for anything except being herself. And I put a value on that. It's
really a crushed bud who wanted to bloom..."
Shy, a bit overweight and desperate to be wanted, Muriel lives in sunny, suburban
Porpoise Point, part of the dysfunctional Heslop family dominated by a father who thinks
his wife and kids are all useless. She dreams of a Prince Charming, and wants to belong to
a group of sexy young girls who have no trouble finding boyfriends - albeit for the wrong
reasons. She finds temporary refuge in ABBA songs, until propelled by temptation to really
escape. But still she seeks the impossible dream, until jolted into the realisation that
she is what she is - and that is the beginning of Muriel's life in bloom.
"I never believed that life and farce are mutually
"I never believed that life and farce are mutually exclusive - they're much the
same in fact," Hogan says, explaining why the film stitches together naturalism and
elements of farce, comedy and tragedy, with such ease.
But as he readily admits, he was blessed with a superb cast, including Collette, Bill
Hunter, Rachel Griffiths, Jeanie Drynan, and others.