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MY BIG FAT GREEK WEDDING (2002)
Toula Portokalos is a 30 year old Greek woman who feels trapped working in her family's Greek restaurant. After an embarrassing experience she develops a strong desire to remake her appearance and update her job skills, which all leads to a romance with a non-Greek, causing a stretching of attitudes of all concerned.
Screenplay by Nia Vardalos.
Directed by: Joel Zwick.
Promotional Lines: " Love is here to stay... so is her family."
This marvelous romantic comedy begins by showing a thumb-nail sketch humorous flashback of Toula Portokalos' early life as she narrates how she felt about growing up in a household steeped in Greek thought and culture as a young child and a teenager. Toula wanted to blend in more with American culture by participating in Brownies instead of going to Greek school. The flashback shows Toula being laughed at by the popular girls at school because of her Greek food lunch, and being embarrassed by her father's habit of finding the supposedly Greek root of every word, even in front of her friends in the carpool. Being different isn't easy and it is safe to say Toula has some mixed feelings about her strongly Greek culture practicing family. How she wrestles with her heritage and cultural identity to come to a new understanding of her Greek culture is one of the main story lines in this film.
Her father and mother, like her aunts and uncles who were all from the old country, had established a business in Chicago, Dancing Zorba's, a restaurant where her immediate family works. After high school, Toula went to work in the family restaurant as expected. The standard expectation was that Greek girls would marry Greek boys, work in the family business, have many kids and of course feed everyone. Time passed and at age 30, Toula (Nia Vardalos) was still unmarried, feeling frumpy, like she has no life and not happy about working in the family restaurant. Her aunts and uncles are worried as well as her parents. They cross themselves at the thought that Toula may not marry.
One evening, Toula is waiting on the tables and a handsome non-Greek man, Ian Miller (John Corbett) comes in to eat with his friend Mike (Ian Gomez). The sight of Ian causes Toula to have a strange reaction. All she can do is stare at Ian, who is puzzled by her behavior. After this embarrassing incident with Ian, Toula decides that she is loosing it and needs to try to change her life. She begins by asking her parents if she could take some computer classes. Her father, Gus Portokalos, (Michael Constantine says no at first. However, Maria Portokalos (Lainie Kazan), uses her powers of persuasion, convinces Gus to relent and who then allows Toula to take computer classes downtown at the junior college. Toula gives herself a make over, gets contact lenses and becomes much happier with herself. She asks her Aunt Voula to let her work in Voula's travel agency, using her new computer skills. Aunt Voula and Maria Portokalos work together in cahoots to get Gus to come up with the idea of solving Voula's 'family problem' by letting Toula work in the travel agency, in exchange for Voula's son working for Gus.
Then things go up a notch when this Ian Miller happens to walk by the travel agency window, sees her and walks into Toula's heart. Before one knows it, Toula and Ian are in love in a secret relationship. Of course, they are busted when seen by a cousin kissing in a parking lot - then the family fireworks begin. Toula is in love with a non-Greek - YIKES! Someone's father isn't happy at all. How her whole family stretches to accept Ian and how Ian, who deeply loves Toula, and his very different parents are willing to bend as well makes a hilarious 2nd story line, which intertwines nicely with Toula's struggle with finding a peace about her Greek family and life.
Nia Vardalos, who portrays Toula, also does a wonderful job with her humorous, poignant screenplay, which makes good use of the cast's abilities to tell the humorous, entertaining / never boring story line, without bad language or crude situations often used in films today as an excuse for humor! The various behaviors of this loud, boisterous, loving extended Greek family, full of vivacious characters not afraid to be themselves are really entertaining as they rally around the engaged couple in the kind of loving support that comes from sincere hearts, which has the tendency to take over things like wedding plans, get to know you dinners and the wedding day, but also gives many benefits as well; Love, traditions, support, acceptance and a place to really belong. It is no wonder that this film was adored by the public viewing audience. In 2002, it was the highest-grossing independent film of all time, until it was surpassed by THE PASSION OF CHRIST.
The director, Joel Zwick, mostly known for his TV accomplishments, kept the story moving at the right clip and got some great performances out of the cast. He has a talent for comedy! His directing success with this film boosted his work as a film director. He got a plumb gig as director of the film, ELVIS HAS LEFT THE BUILDING and is directing Bill Cosby's film, FAT ALBERT.
What a cast of talented actors and actresses, who do a wonderful job bringing this humorous, romantic comedy to life!
Nia Vardalos shines in her portrayal of Toula, a Greek American woman in search of self, who is working through her mixed feelings she has about her big fat Greek family, and the cultural expectations.
John Corbett gives a convincing portrayal of the kind and caring, calm school teacher, Ian Miller, who truly loves Toula and has the courage and patience to experience Toula's family and rises to the occasion magnificently, helping Toula along the way with insights that help her find peace with it all.
Michael Constantine is wonderful as the colorful Gus Portokalos, Toula's over the top Greek father who struggles with his feelings about Ian, much like any parent would when their daughter or son falls in love with someone not on the approved potential spouse list.
Lainie Kazan - a character actress who gives a strong performance as Maria Portokalos, the clever, strong, loving mother of Toula, who looks after Toula's well-being and wants her to be happy, hopefully within the guidelines of the family, but will roll with the punches, make the best of any situation graciously, choosing to look at situations in a positive light.
Andrea Martin - This Tony and Emmy winning actress/ writer gives a marvelous supporting actress performance as Toula's Aunt Voula.
The talented Alexander Janko composed the lively musical score, with some help from Chris Wilson.
Jeff Jur did a fine job with the cinematography.
This film is rated PG. A great film for the whole family with some reservations. There is kissing and 2 implied premarital sex scenes; but no nudity or actual showing of the romantic encounters. Very tame stuff. When Ian invites Toula up to his apartment for the first time, she jumps on him, fade to black. The other scene has them lying in bed with clothes / covers on, but the look on their faces implies that they just made love. He asks her to marry him.
Maria Portokalos: "The men may be the head of the house but the women are the neck and they can turn the head anyway they want."
Gus Portokalos: "There are two kinds of people - Greeks, and everyone else who wish they was Greek. Say any word, and I'll tell you how the root of that word is Greek".
Toula Portokalos: "When I was growing up, I knew I was different. The other girls were blonde and delicate, and I was a swarthy six-year-old with sideburns."