Friday, December 27, 2002
My Big Fat Greek Wedding / **** (2002)
The movie is a Cinderella story for screenwriter Nia Vardalos, an actress who, in the recent years, has found the task of acquiring major starring roles in motion pictures increasingly difficult. "No one is interested in Greek heroines," she indicated in one recent interview, a prospect that not only fueled that pursuit even further, but reshaped the approach as well. As a result, she devised a script to accommodate her acting chops and based it around her own life, specifically a point in time that required her to think past the wishes of her parents and find happiness in the arms of anyone who could offer it to her. The appeal of the message was perhaps a lot greater than Vardalos herself realized in the beginning, though, so just imagine her reaction when she heard that her story had appealed to enough of the public to push its financial gross past the $100 million mark, a feat that is unheard of for even big studio romance comedies.
"My Big Fat Greek Wedding" is a family saga at heart, guiding us from one segment to the next in order to reveal a cheerful and dedicated group of relatives rather than a large ensemble of grumps. Nia stars as the main player, Fotoula Portokalos (Toula for short), a spinster who occupies the first act of the movie like the stereotype of a Librarian, her beauty conveniently hidden behind messy hair, big glasses and the depressing blank stare. She's the hostess of a restaurant owned by her Greek parents, the sassy Maria (Lainie Kazan) who knows that her children shouldn't be forced into something they don't want, and Gus (Michael Constantine), the old thinker who seems to believe any flesh wound can be cured with Windex. Toula, we gather, has been stuck in this pattern for years, but one day when she bumps into a handsome college professor named Ian (John Corbett), she decides that it's time to pull down the facade and be herself. Needless to say, her transformation attracts Ian almost instantly, but will Toula's parents be very happy that their daughter is winning the heart of someone who isn't Greek?
Although films of this flavor depend primarily on their comic timing to win over an audience, director Joel Zwick finds other outlets of brilliance more often in "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" than we would normally assume. Toula's opening narration, for instance, has a sly wit and vivacity about it, as she describes the climate surrounding her mob-sized family as if she lives with a bunch of circus clowns. Nia's characterizations, meanwhile, contain a certain sense of familiarity among all the quirkiness and energy, as if her relatives are some bizarre marriage between hers and ours. Given the focus of the subject to begin with—which is challenging tradition and family bias in regards to love—it is also an amazing feat that the screenplay manages to maintain a lighthearted and whimsy tone without resorting to melodrama or contrivance in the end. In fact, the only points in the movie that actually suggest that kind of direction are quickly detoured, saving us the embarrassment of incorrectly assuming the worst from the picture's central tone.
Without dissecting anything further from the movie itself—which doesn't require any elaborate analysis to begin with—I will simply conclude this review with simple words of advice. See "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" if you haven't already done so. See it for the charm; see it for the heart; see it for the comedy. No matter what your reasons, just remember this: there is a genuine reason why viewers keep coming back to this endeavor, and if there's some part of you that can identify in the least with any part of this sweet little story, maybe you'll find yourself going back for more as well.
Written by DAVID KEYES
Cast & Crew info:
Nia Vardalos: Fotoula 'Toula' Portokalos
John Corbett: Ian Miller
Michael Constantine: Gus Portokalos
Lainie Kazan: Maria Portokalos
Andrea Martin: Aunt Voula
Joey Fatone: Angelo
Produced by Paul Brooks, David Coatsworth, Gary Goetzman, Tom Hanks, Mark Hufnail, Jim Milio, Melissa Jo Peltier, Steve Shareshian, Norm Waitt and Rita Wilson; Directed by Joel Zwick; Screenwritten by Nia Vardalos
Comedy (US); Rated PG for sensuality and language; Running Time - 94 Minutes