Reviewed by: Denny Wayman and Hal Conklin
Starring: Nia Vardalos, Gia Carides, John Corbett, Joey Fatone, Ian Gomez | Directed by: Joel Zwick | Produced by: Tom Hanks, Gary Goetzman, Rita Wilson | Written by: Nia Vardalos | Distributor: IFC Films
Sequel: “My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2” (2016)
In the film genre in which cultural differences are the basis of the humor, “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” takes the proverbial cake. Though much pain has come from the racial and cultural differences that divide us, the hope for our future rests in our being able to love and accept one another not in spite of our differences, but because of them.
This message, that people exactly like us are boring and that we would find people of other cultures more captivating, is clearly the meaning behind story. With a mutual attraction that creates not only some humorous antics but also some endearing vulnerabilities, Ian Miller (John Corbett) and Toula Portokos (Nia Vardalos) begin an unlikely dating relationship.
Toula is a member of a large and proud Greek family whose primary business is a Greek restaurant. Portraying her family in caricatured extremes, Toula has only one purpose in life: to marry a Greek man. But now, at the age of 30, this possibility seems to have passed her by. When Ian enters her life, he provides the spark that begins a whole process of differentiation in which Toula begins to make her own choices about her life.
However, this American value of individuality is tempered within the film as she struggles to accept both her family and her new, non-Greek lover. And so she indirectly asks Ian to convert to her Greek Orthodox faith.
This is perhaps the most disappointing aspect of the film. Religious foundations of our cultural differences are strong and deep. But the film presents such a shallow view of his conversion that it pictures him being baptized in an inflatable kiddy pool in the beautiful sanctuary of Toula’s church. Our lives could have been enriched by exploring the moral, ethical and religious struggle we have when cultures clash.
Marriage from the perspective of Toula’s Greek family is not just the uniting together of two people, but it is the joining together of two clans. It is the clan that can be the fortress that holds the family together, or the prison that keeps one in chains. By contrast, as exhibited by Ian’s family, marriage can become just another consumer decision with utilitarian value shared with business associates at “the club.”
Nevertheless, the celebration of life presented in “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” is a wonderful message of the value of family with its cultural traditions and relationships. Such a message is helpful in defining and celebrating our own family, culture and religious heritage.
Reprinted with permission from CinemaInFocus.com