My Big Fat Greek Wedding review by Jackass Tom

Comfy and Homey

My Big Fat Greek Wedding is all the rage. It’s the movie to see these days and is turning into an independent film phenomena much like Clerks (although while still in the theatre). Every week I look at the box office returns on IMDB; every week it seems to be stronger. It makes millions of dollars on such a shoestring budget. Up till this week (the week ending November 3rd) it has made $185 million while it cost just $5 million to make. You do that math. How does it work?

First, there are no big names. This is an independent film. You don’t make independent films with stars… that’s what makes it independent: No Hollywood! The writer (Nia Vardalos) is writing her first film. She is also plays the main character so you know that the context is something she feels passionate about. She obviously has her vision of how the character should be portrayed. The director, Joel Zwick, hasn’t directed non-television since the 80s. I have small complaints about the direction: it looked a bit bland. Not that I demand an action star’s direction, but it seemed to follow a direct by numbers approach; something I like to see shed in independent films. But this is a small complaint.

The name of the film is My Big Fat Greek Wedding. So naturally I was pleasantly surprised to see a number of Greek names in the credits. This lends a certain amount of creditability to the film. It sounds silly doesn’t it? But what is even sillier is putting Spanish Penelope Cruz (BECAUSE SHE IS A STAR) as a Greek daughter in Captain Corelli’s Mandolin. That’s Hollywood! Not only do they look and sound authentic, they act authentic. Think of what stories they bring to the film. The father and grandmother look like they were shipped straight from someone’s family into this one without missing a beat. The father loves his daughter and wants to see her marry a Greek man. “You look so old… you need to get married… have little Greek children,” he says lovingly. And then when she dates a WASP, he lays the puppy dog guilt trip on her, “How could you! I come to this country on $8 and this is how…”, etc. etc. The grandmother is hilarious: old and feeble, but not helpless. She escapes from the house thinking it is a Turkish prison only to find refuge in the neighbor’s garage, kitchen and roof. She has one of those crooked index fingers that she wields like a weapon when pointing it scoldingly.

The first point of comparison (filmwise) I see is to Meet the Parents. Meet the Parents was big on simple comedy. Its bread and butter was watching Ben Stiller get hurt or put himself in strange situations only to make an ass out of himself. My Big Fat Greek Wedding worked more off of familial characters and interactions rather than pain and suffering. The relationship between mother-father-daughter (mother working on the father to make sure her daughter went to school… it was a comic scene that shows the mother taking the advantage without the father knowing), the relationship between cousins-aunts-uncles (like the aunt who’s volumes were loud, and louder), and of course father-daughter-son-in-law (the acceptance of a son that doesn’t have to be a bumbling idiot just to gain approval) are the cornerstones of comedy. MBFGW plays off of the politics between insiders and outsiders in these families and how different backgrounds play into odd-awkward-hysterical situations, where as something like Meet the Parents would take a football in the groin.

The reason this movie works is because it takes the approach of the struggle to be accepted into a family, but it does it in a supportive/integrating way as opposed to an adversarial way. In Meet the Parents, Ben Stiller puts himself at odds with Robert De Niro when he first learns that his soon to be father in law doesn’t approve. He becomes angry and tries to out-do the father. In MBFGW, the Ian Miller character swallows his pride and works himself into a family that is quite different from his own. He accepts their differences and welcomes his new family with open arms. Why? Because he is in love with their daughter and is willing to sacrifice a little in order to make their marriage and life together work. The film is genuine, honest, warm, and still manages to be funny and that’s why so many people want to see it.

7 out of 10 Jackasses
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