Collette, whose character looks as cheaply built as the houses in her garishly colored hometown of Porpoise Spit, plays an ugly duckling praying to become a swan—or at least a cute duck. Her father (Bill Hunter), a failed politico and successful philanderer, calls her useless. Dad may be cruel, but he is on to something. Collette is unemployed and spends her days listening to ABBA records and clipping wedding photos out of magazines while fantasizing about marriage and a honeymoon. Abandoned as uncool by her supposed friends, a dim trio who could make sneering an art form, the devastated Collette empties the family savings account of $12,000 to take an island vacation. There, a chance meeting with Griffiths, a free-spirited former high school classmate, gives her the courage to reshape her life.
She moves to Sydney, gets a job in a video store, changes her name from Muriel to Mariel, and goes from one bridal boutique to another trying on wedding gowns. She finds a groom—of sorts—and finally finds herself.
Collette's plight is certainly meant to be touching, but in the '90s it's hard to feel much empathy for someone who places such tremendous importance on finding a husband—and walks around grinning like a jackass for most of the movie. Muriel's Wedding tries very hard to be uplifting. It tries even harder to be charming. It succeeds most at just being trying. (R)