Ossus Library Index Comedy Index


Directed by Joel Zwick (2002, IFC Films)
Starring Nia Vardalos, John Corbett, Micheal Constantine, and Lainie Kazan

A Greek woman tries to hide her romance with a non-Greek man from her family.

View count: Twice



4 stars

March 13th, 2005 on TV  
    Toula's mother was the real star of this movie. She knew what she could get away with concerning her husband, and when her daughter had gone too far. The funniest lines come from her, in the concept of the woman being the neck of the family, and convincing her husband that Toula should work at the travel agency. The saddest line also comes from her, telling Toula to break off her romance.

Fortunately, we don't have to sit through any of the standard romantic movie clichés (although the cultural clichés abound). Toula and Ian didn't break up only to come together again. This was a lot more like real life. These two people overcame their differences (or more like the differences in their families). They worked hard at it, though I don't think Toula made as many concessions as Ian did -but to be fair, she had to endure a lot of her father's complaining.

Another funny moment comes when Ian asks for permission to date Toula, after being told he should do this. The father's exasperated "no!" was hilarious.

This is a well put-together movie, and it was truly funny, all the way through. I don't find too many comedies funny, so this was quite refreshing.



4 stars

October 1st, 2002 in the Theatre  
    Truly hilarious, and I think just about everybody can relate to this film.

I think part of the appeal of this film, the reason why it has been so big, is that everybody knows a family like this, or is even part of one. Even if the family is not Greek, as long as it is large or noisy, boisterous, ignores whatever you say in favor of what they "know" is good for you, or anything outrageous, there is something in this film for people to relate to. It is very much like the film Home for the Holidays, where there is so much going on that it is hilarious to watch it blow out of proportion.

What gets exaggerated here is the Greek-ness of Toula's family. The whole family, including the dozens of cousins, is very Greek, stereotypically so. Every cliché you can think of is in this film, from the couch covered in its original plastic to roasting lamb on a spit in the front yard, and owning a restaurant and a travel agency. It is the way those clichés are organized into a true life for Toula that makes it so enjoyable.

Her father is the ultimate cliché and stereotype. His house is reminiscent of many Greek landmarks! He can find a Greek root to any word in the English language, whether it is actually true or not. And, of utmost importance to the main character, he wants his daughters to marry a good Greek guy and have lots of kids. Her sister did that, with more and more popping up as the movie progresses! Her brother is exempt, being a guy -he has lots of time to find himself a good Greek virgin.

Only Fatoula, who thinks she is frumpy, is left, and her father hounds her every chance he gets. When she falls in love (literally, after being yanked off her feet by the telephone headset when she gets up to greet him), she tries to keep it secret. But the city of Chicago has too many eyes, and the women find out. Her father nearly dies on the spot, since Ian Miller is not Greek!

Toula's mother is the one who really steals the show here. The line about the man being the head of the family but the woman being the neck (thus being able to point the head in any direction it wants) was probably the best and most hilarious line in the whole movie. Toula is completely amazed when her mother and aunt are able to manipulate her father into thinking it was his idea to send her to work at the travel agency, since she insisted on taking a computer course. I was laughing my head off.

Ian's family was another exaggeration. There is no way people so dull can possibly exist. It's a wonder that Ian was ever conceived. In fact, I think the film-makers perhaps went too far in that direction, to make Ian's family so dull in comparison to Toula's. I was surprised to see any emotion in his mother when trying to explain the "bunt cake" to the Greeks. She actually got angry! But the actress was far too weak for that role.

Ian himself was very impressive. I was sure I'd seen him before, but I can't place where. He was willing to embrace an entire culture, one he didn't even know existed, really, only months before. Even he went a little too far in embracing it, I think. He left his parents without warning in the midst of all that boisterousness -in fact, didn't warn them of anything at all, it seems.

The plot assumes that non-European cultures have no culture -that may be true, to a certain extent. But they could have insisted on some of the standard courtesies that we like to think of as our culture. Like the courtesy of doing some of the things our own way, with no assumptions about what we would inherently like. But that would have taken some of the humor out of the situations. Still, it shows how intolerant people can be when they have a fixed idea about how somebody else should live -even down to the house her parents bought for them next door, which was a wonderful gesture. But still...

The wedding was typical of any wedding movie, but thankfully most of the preparations were kept short, just enough to show us that her family intruded far more than she wanted them to. In real life I hope somebody would have told her father that embracing the Greek culture doesn't necessarily mean throwing it in everybody's else's face!

Regardless, the movie was hilarious, and was able to come full circle, as Toula realizes how she has been repressing her Greek side, because of the over-bearing of the rest of her family. Once she discovers this, with Ian's help, she is able to live next door to her parents, to send her daughter to Greek school, but hopefully with more reality than her parents.

The funny moments were far too numerous to point out individual moments. I think the movie was so naturally flowing from one funny moment to the next, with Toula creating them falsely because she was so up-tight worrying about her family.

But family... ah, you have to live with them, or at least allow them nearby sometimes!


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