Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Can you hear the drums, Fernando?

One of the best movies ever made, in my humble opinion, is the 1994 Australian film Muriel's Wedding. I saw this movie for the first time when I was in middle school. I remember renting the video and watching it in my basement, sitting in my pampasan chair, utterly moved. Here's what makes it awesome:

1. Almost the entire soundtrack is Abba (with the exception of Blondie's "The Tide is High").

2. Toni Collette is so believable as a mopey, dreamy outcast who attempts to reinvent her own life, and Rachel Griffiths speaks with her real Australian accent.

3. The names of the places are wonderful (Porpoise Spit, Hibiscus Island).

4. Muriel fake-marries a hot South African swimmer (see below).

But really, it's the Abba. The film uses Abba in such a heartfelt, wonderful way. And I'm not the only one who thinks so. The New York Times paid tribute to the film in a video:

I had been exposed to Abba before Muriel's Wedding, of course. My mother and her sisters are fans, it turns out. When my cousins and I used to go up to our aunt and uncle's cottage in northern California, we'd put on Abba Gold and run around the house belting out the hits between going to the pool and watching "Blood In, Blood Out" repeatedly on the ancient VHS. Abba reminds me of lying in a bunk-bed in a wood-paneled room in the cottage, singing earnestly along with the sweet strains of "Fernando." The lyrics are so goofy, of course, but you can't totally ridicule that song, or any of Abba's tunes, because they're SO gosh darn catchy. You have to give those Swedes props.

Now with this whole Mamma Mia craze, I guess I'm feeling a bit bittersweet. Yes, Abba is experiencing a re-surge, but is it really Abba? I mean, Meryl Streep singing "Mamma Mia" isn't the same as Benny, Björn, Anni-Frid and Agnetha singing it. We all know that. And no Abba-based movie will ever compare to Muriel's Wedding. How could it?

I'll just leave you with this final quote from Muriel: "When I lived in Porpoise Spit, I used to sit in my room for hours and listen to ABBA songs. But since I've met you and moved to Sydney, I haven't listened to one Abba song. That's because my life is as good as an Abba song. It's as good as Dancing Queen."

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