FUN WITH STEREOTYPES!!!!!!
There just aren’t enough stereotypes in Hollywood anymore. I say that because cultural stereotypes don’t HAVE to be negative. Used creatively they can be sweet, funny, insightful, even heartfelt. Maybe in our PC rush to expunge the negative we became a little bit afraid of the good. Unlike this year’s Undercover Brother, which used black & white stereotypes to deliver straight out good-hearted, gut busting laughs, My Big Fat Greek Wedding uses stereotypes in a delightful blend of sweet romance and lovingly dished out humor.
Starting off slowly, Greek Wedding introduces us to Fotoula (Nia Vardalos) as she is, approaching middle age, alone, and living with a family that’s very very Greek. She’s not beautiful or outgoing, nor does she put much effort into presenting herself. As a result, she’s still living at home while all her similarly aged relatives have found good men and settled down. Her father (Michael Constantine) cares only that she marry, but holds out little hope that his daughter will ever fulfill his wishes. So, going against culture, Toula starts trying to better herself instead, giving up on finding a man as her father and family demands. Ironically, this leads her to exactly what she was trying to avoid… love. Unfortunately for her, he’s not Greek and her family isn’t happy. Toula must come to grips with her own heritage while still finding a way to blaze her own trail in the world. Sure she’s over thirty, but I guess some of us are just late bloomers.
For me, the best thing about Greek Wedding is that the Nia Vardalos is plain. VERY plain. There’s nothing that makes me sicker than trying to watch some glam queen like Julia Roberts trying to pass herself off as “one of us.” Even in a fat suit, not only do she and her elitist ilk not LOOK average, I suspect they don’t even remember what it’s like to be one of the “normal” folks. Vardalos on the other hand looks imperfect and comfortably real. From her appropriately aged face to her slightly crossed eyes, she’s instantly easier for the flawed among us to identify with.
Her family too, is a bevy of VERY Greek but very NORMAL looking people with their own set of mental and physical foibles. Again though, each is oozinlgy Greek, almost to the point of being absurdly stereotypical in almost every scene. I don’t know many Greeks, but I also don’t know many people so absurdly obsessed with their heritage. This isn’t offensive or annoying, but endearing, reflecting in an extremely overblown way the same types of issues we all face in one way or another when dealing with our own families, whatever their background. Beyond that, stereotypes are simply funny and there just isn’t any point in analyzing it.
My Big Fat Greek Wedding takes a delightfully tongue and cheek look at the difficulties of family relationships and finding love. With a soft, affectionate touch it digs into all of us in just the right spots to achieve something anyone can watch and enjoy. Maybe that means it’s also a little bit lukewarm, but there’s something to be said for a simple little film that just does everything right. No matter who you are, you can’t beat FUN WITH STEREOTYPES!!!!