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Comparative review of Australian films Muriel’s Wedding and The Castle Essay Sample

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Comparative review of Australian films Muriel’s Wedding and The Castle Essay Sample

Think Cinderella stories and ABBA then throw in some humour and romance and you’ll end up with Muriel’s Wedding. Directed by PJ Hogan, this bright, yet sad, film focuses on Australian family life and the meaning of “success.”

Muriel Heslop (Toni Collete) is jobless, has a low self-esteem and is obsessed with getting married to become successful. She lives in Porpoise Spit, a coastal resort, has no genuine friends and a dysfunctional family.

Muriel’s father, Bill Heslop, is a corrupt small-town politician who can not understand why the rest of the family have trouble keeping up with him. Bill divides his life between his mistress Deidre, a cosmetics seller, and time spent tyrannizing and putting down Muriel and the rest of the Heslop household.

Betty, Muriel’s mother, never seems to understand Bill or the rest of her family and is slowly disappearing without her family knowing. Dim Betty is drowning under an ocean of dirty dishes and when asked to give Muriel a blank check, she blankly responds, “How much for?”

Parents who don’t get along and jobless, couch potato children who sit around all day watching sport on television, portray Australian family life in Muriel’s Wedding. This negative portrayal also extends to a number of cases of adultery and family dysfunction.

Muriel comforts herself with ABBA records, dreaming of the white wedding that will turn her into another person. In one scene, at a nightclub named “Breakers”, Muriel meets her so-called “friends” who proceed to tell her they don’t like her because she is an embarrassment. These bimbo bitches tell Muriel she needs to “find friends on her own level.” This scene is symbolic of the way Muriel is treated throughout the movie and the way she acts in return. Muriel is forever being told she is not good enough and is an embarrassment, which is why she tries to transform herself into a new person.

And so the story unfolds and the plot thickens. Muriel meets Rhonda (Rachael Griffiths) at Hibiscus Island where she is spending all her parents’ money. Rhonda helps Muriel build her confidence in many ways and she begins a new life in Sydney. Trouble is, Muriel has a lot of lies to deal with if she is ever going to really take charge of her life.

Another Australian movie, The Castle, presents a much different and more positive portrayal of Australian family life. The Kerrigon family is a happy bunch of good-willed people. Led by Darryl, the humorous father (Michael Keaton), the Kerrigons fight a multi-million dollar firm to keep their home at 3 Hillview Crescent, Coolaroo. There are no marital affairs, and each member of the household plays an active part in family life. Darryl is the opposite of Bill Helsop when it comes to the treatment of his family. Throughout The Castle, Darryl compliments his wife on her cooking and his children on their achievements. Every meal he asks, “Whaddya call this?” Even when the meal is simply chicken. Overall, this film is a happy comedy presenting a positive portrayal of Australian families.

Muriel’s Wedding can be described as a tragic comedy. There are funny parts, like the suspicious friendship between Bill and Deidre. “What a coincidence,” these two call out when they run into each other awfully regularly, though a major portion of the story is solemn. I enjoyed Muriel’s Wedding. Although not quite as good as The Castle entertainment-wise, Muriel’s Wedding is better in terms of a realistic and expressive storyline. The film is bursting with positive messages about the need to be yourself. It also has a wonderful soundtrack, full of fantastic ABBA hits. This film is definitely worth watching by all Australians.

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