Nov 5, 2010

[Movies] My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002)

My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002)I got on the Nia Vardalos train pretty late - in fact it wasn't until Connie and Carla that I learned to fully appreciate the unique brand of humor she brings to screen in terms of both of her writing and her acting. The combination of the two elements really help things along.

In a recent six-degrees style movie marathon, I started with an old movie and somehow ended up wanting to try out all the other major Nia Vardalos movies starting with that some would claim to be her big break in 2002 and the movies that followed from that point. I know she had movies prior to this one but let's face it, this was the truly big one that helped put her on the map for a greater majority of the movie watching world.

I know, I know, I'm not necessarily what some people might consider to be stereotypically one who would watch romantic comedies of this nature. But yeah, it's a sort of a guilty pleasure when you get down to it, one that is best indulged in with the company of the man you love.
Yes, I actually wrote that. Oh snap!

Actress Nia Vardalos at the Connie and Carla p...Image via WikipediaMy Big Fat Greek Wedding is the 2002 romantic comedy written by and starring Nia Vardalos. Her work was nominated at the Oscars for Best Original Screenplay (but lost to Talk to Her). The movie was directed by Joel Zwick.

The movie centers around the life of Toula Portokalos (Nia Vardalos), a 30 year old woman stuck working in the family Greek restaurant with the constant reminders that her only purpose in life is to "marry a Greek, make Greek babies and feed everyone". Growing up in America, she naturally has a different set of values that drive her to want to become more independent and not just another Greek baby factory.

A chance encounter at the restaurant allows her to briefly meet Ian Miller (John Corbett), although meet may be too generous a term. This moment makes her consider her life some more and after a brief argument with her father (Michael Constantine), she becomes determined to make a positive change in life. With the help of her mother (Lainie Kazan), she manages to convince her father to let her take a computer course at a local college. At the same time, she tries to do something about her image and starts wearing contacts, changes her hair and finally begins to use make-up.

This culminates with her managing to get a job at her aunt's (Andrea Martin) travel agency given her new computer skills. Her work at the travel agency eventually allows her to encounter Ian once again and the two start dating after a few more "chance" encounters. Love takes its natural course and when Ian finally wants to marry Toula, he finds that he needs to deal with her entire family at the same time. In Greek society, clearly you marry the whole family and not just the woman.

I can understand why this movie was such a stellar hit here. The manner in which Vardalos has crafted the nature of the Greek family into a cinematic experience certainly strikes a chord with Asian sensibilities. We all have families with similar quirks - just replace Windex as a cure-all with any other popular substance such as rubbing alcohol, cebo de macho and all those oils and salves. But this isn't necessarily just a Filipino trait - every family has its quirks and peculiarities and that's what Vardalos was able to capture so well. The experience presented in this particular movie is so familiar that it makes us all nod. Every laugh is not just because of the antics in the movie. It's also because we're laughing at ourselves and the kind of silliness that takes place at every family reunion.

Nia Vardalos is certainly charming and this movie was a pure winner for her. And that's not just because she wrote it - it's because she wrote it very well. Anyone can write herself into a story. Just look at Shyamalan's silly little insertions into his movies. But not everyone can do this in a manner that remains sensible and that works for the story and not the other way around. Stories should be a combined effort of all the elements involved and should not be built around a single character. Or worse - a single actor.

John Corbett was charming in his own right, but this didn't feel like it was all that different from his role in Sex and the City. Nothing overly novel or stellar there, if you ask me.
The movie certainly was an excellent demonstration of Nia's abilities as a writer, and I doubt I can never stop giving her full credit in this regard. The writing behind a movie is often forgotten and it becomes too easy to focus on the stars or he effects. Without a good story, there is no movie. Without good writing, there will be no true comedy. The best comedy is all about the comedic timing, the wit and the intelligence that goes into the production.

My Big Fat Greek Wedding is a fun movie to watch either alone with a special someone or together with your whole family. It gets 4 works whose origins are supposedly Greek out of a possible 5.

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