He, the only son of two zipped up WASPs and she, the daughter of a hundred perfect Greeks.
MY BIG FAT GREEK WEDDING
An Illusion Review by Joan Ellis
The camera zooms slowly and with lovely grace through a driving rain to the city of Chicago where it comes to rest on the lives of the Portokalos family. That is the only quiet note in this big, noisy feast of a film. “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” is terrific. This enormous collection of cousins, siblings, aunts, uncles, parents, and friends is explained as they display their eccentricities by Toula (Nia Vardalos), the thirty year old, still unmarried daughter in a family whose mandate is “”to grow up, marry Greek boys and feed everyone until the day we die.”
Long suffering in her outsized clan, Toula is the quiet observer who longs for wider exposure than her father Gus (Michael Constantine) will allow. As the camera zooms in once again, she describes their house as being “modeled on the Parthenon,” an image that captures exactly the nature of this family where to be Greek is to be perfect. While her older sister marries and produces babies, Toula works in the family restaurant where her brother’s job is “to cook and marry a Greek virgin.” At this moment, Toula is at the point where she will have to conform or make a break – compromise with her father is out of the question.
She does neither, of course. When Ian Miller (John Corbett) walks into her life, he brings the outside world to her and sets the stage for a superbly comic clash of family cultures. He, the only son of two zipped up WASPs and she, the daughter of a hundred perfect Greeks.
Toula’s mother (Lainie Kazan, in an inspired performance) colludes with her daughter to manipulate her angry husband at every turn. This love match must end in a wedding. For his part, Ian is enthralled with Toula’s sense of fun. We wait in gleeful anticipation for the collision of the two families. And collide, they do.
As Gus says, “That family is dry toast.” Ian’s proper lawyer father and his pale, timid, skinny, mother dressed, as she would be, in a single string of pearls and middle-aged pageboy hair are conversationally crippled by inhibition, especially when they are told the reception will be at “Aphrodite’s Palace.”
Toula’s unhappy father, “How can she do this to me?” and the enchanted Ian, “I’ll do whatever I have to to get them to accept me,” lead us through hilarious scenes of Greek excess. The laughter here is sustained, not fitful; credit for that goes to Nia Vardalos who plays the marvelous Toula and also wrote the screenplay. She is absolutely wonderful in interpreting her own script, and she has great support from John Corbett as Ian, Michael Constantine as her father, and Lainie Kazan as her wise, warm mother.
When Gus makes his perfect Greek wedding toast with just right mix of acceptance and resignation, we in the audience howl with delight right along with the two families we have come to know so well.
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