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Jun 06 2018

Soundtracking: "Muriel's Wedding"

byChris Feil

It's a sad truth that the closest thing we've gotten to Toni Collette starring in a screen musical isMuriel's Wedding(andConnie and Carla,but that's for another day).The forgotten half-truth is that it isn't the only screen ABBA musical.Sure,Mamma Mia!actually features full blown singing and dancing,but just becauseMuriel's Wedding's musicality exists in the daydreaming of its heroine,that doesn't mean we're spared the delights of a slew ABBA's biggest hits.But the tunes are so crucial to the film's identity and omnipresent throughout that it's a huge missed opportunity that Muriel's inevitable stage adaptation will never be the ABBA jukebox musical that could have been.

Paired with Collette's rangey,bittersweet performance,the film uses the relentless optimism of the legendary group to surprising effect,making the catharsis inherent to the Swerdish pop group's stylings a hard won battle.WhileMamma Mia!is pure indulgence into their sweet extremity,in Muriel we see the kind of melancholy that uses such pop escapism as a coping tool.It's music we listen to when we need the pick-me-up,and Collette marinates in the pathos of a group that is rarely examined with much depth.

Naturally the ultimate ABBA track "Dancing Queen"recurs throughout the film as Muriel's theme song.At first we see Muriel alone in her room,barely whispering along,lost to her woes.It's a "sing out Louise"moment and not just because of the aforementioned lack of Collette screen musical.It's a jarring juxtaposition to how the song is normally used in pop culture,the hopelessness in Collette's eyes against its propulsive neon glory.You just want her to get caught in its release,belt it out,and take hold of her destiny.

I mean,how are you supposed to be sad listening to "Dancing Queen"?!But here the song becomes the tide that carries our emotional response - this is a crucial moment we'll recall when the song returns,its joy finally reflected in Muriel's exhale.

She first finds her power,along with new bestie Rhonda,in performing "Waterloo"in front of the spiteful girls she's latched her need for approval onto.Again,we just Muriel to submit to silly sway of the track but she begins timid.As if she hadn't performed this number one hundred times alone in her room.But her shame fades when the watching girls eviscerate eachother and Rhonda becomes the judgment-free equal she has been longing for.Its both a relief to see Muriel relax and for us to be allowed back into ABBA's intended ecstatic sway.

You want ABBA to be this fun and we want Muriel to always be this happy.Sadly,"Dancing Queen"remains the heartbroken undertow of the film.

Later,after the two have been torn apart,"Dancing Queen"finally provides the catharsis in its nature when they are reunited.Muriel has cast off her oppressors and is comfortable in her own skin,having the time of her life as she reclaims it.It's as if it has finally,truly become HER song for the first time.As it should be,ABBA truly is the sound of loving yourself,no?

All Soundtracking installments can be foundhere!

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Reader Comments (11)

Thank you for this,Chris,finally an excuse to re-watch this movie for literally the thousandth time!Great piece :)

June 6,2018 | Unregistered CommenterJason

Wonderful analysis.I never love ABBA more than when I'm watching this movie (and I have watched it many times).

I particularly dig that the ending is totally about Muriel reclaiming her life,and esp.her friendship with Rhonda.She recognizes that the dreamboat she married represented an illusion of happiness,one that needed to be put to rest once and for all.And I love that she drives off not with The Guy,but with her BFF.All to the tune of "Dancing Queen,"of course!

June 6,2018 | Unregistered CommenterRob

The trailer for this promised a raunchy sex comedy.The trailer was wrong,and all the better for it.Terrific,melancholy movie about late coming of age.

June 6,2018 | Unregistered Commenterforever1267

I rewatch that Waterloo scene regularly!Also worth noting is the amazing use of "I do"for the wedding scene.Like the moments you mention,it juxtaposes the exuberance of the music with a really bittersweet situation,highlighting the falseness of trying to hide behind a packaged sentiment instead of leading an authentic,complicated life.

June 6,2018 | Unregistered CommenterRV

How did Toni not get a nom for her perfect wondrousness?!

June 6,2018 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

Muriel's Wedding - The Musical Premiered in Sydney in January to rave is an amazing show,filled with the same nuance as the film.The musical has been updated to the 20-teens and some story elements are different,but the magic is there.PJ Hogan was on-board and wrote the script.A song entitled 'Where going to Sydney' is absolutely hilarious,whilst ABBA melodies and lyrics pepper big scenes through.The use of ABBA within the narrative is a brilliant story telling device,bring both laughs and tears;when I saw the show a scene at the end had the entire audience in tears.It was so emotional.The Musical may work for Australian audiences more than international,but like the movie there is still that universal appeal.Go to YouTube to catch some of the numbers from the show....

June 7,2018 | Unregistered CommenterBH

I saw the musical in Sydney in January as well.It was one of the best shows I have ever seen,and being a show queen I have seen a lot!They are doing a return season next year in a much larger theatre.Hopefully it will tour but agree with BH I don't know how well it will translate to an international audience.The soundtrack is on Spotify and the "Sydney"song is hilarious

June 7,2018 | Unregistered CommenterSean

Is the show more site-specific than the movie?Because the movie feels like it's pretty specifically Australian to me and I'm sure there are jokes I don't get even after seeing the film a billion times but it translates enough to work internationally.

I just ask because I will freak out if the show never travels here to NYC.I wanna see it so so SO bad.

June 7,2018 | Unregistered CommenterJason

I will take this film over Mamma Mia any day!

June 7,2018 | Unregistered CommenterTOM

I know Best Actress 1995 was a crowded race but in hindsight it doesn't feel complicated at all.

Sarandon deserved to win for her unforgettable,career-best work.
Shue more than earned her nomination.
Kidman and Collette both gave stunning,idiosyncratic performances that have aged 10x better than Thompson and Streep's work.

And finally,I think Stone deserved to be nominated.But that top four is non-negotiable.

June 7,2018 | Unregistered CommenterHayden

Hayden : I think Stone should have went Supporting.

June 7,2018 | Unregistered CommenterMichael R

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