The story behind this film is as remarkable as the film itself. Actress/writer Nia Vardalos created a one-woman show about her Greek family and their response when she married a man who wasn’t Greek. Tom Hanks and his wife, Rita Wilson (who is Greek) saw the show and decided to make it into a movie with Nia playing herself.
You’ll fall in love with Vardalos and her family, too. The family is an irresistible force and she is just plain irresistible.
In the movie, Vardalos plays Toula, the shy, plain daughter of a loving but overpowering Greek family. Her father, Gus (Michael Constantine), can prove that any word originally goes back to a Greek source, even “kimono.” Dozens of aunts, uncles, and cousins, who all seem to be named Nick, are constantly involved in the most personal details of each other’s lives. And, in a tradition that goes back to ancient Greek mythology, there is a sense of fate and determinism that leaves Toula feeling that her life has been mapped out for her. Her family believes that Greek girls are here to marry Greek boys, have Greek babies, and cook a lot of Greek food. In the unlikely event that they do not get married, they are expected to work in the family business, in her case, a Greek restaurant.
But Toula dreams of more, and with the help of her mother and her aunt, manages to have Gus thinking that it is his idea to have her go back to school and get another job – in her aunt’s travel agency.
This small change means a lot, and Toula begins not just to bloom, but to glow. She attracts the attention of Ian, a handsome teacher (“Sex in the City’s” John Corbett). She is a reluctant to have him meet her family, and there are certain cultural adjustments involved, but it all works out and the title event is squarely in the happily-ever-after tradition.
Vardalos and director Joel Zwick balance the specifics of the Greek-American culture with the transcendent universalities of family dynamics. Vardalos and Corbett have a believable sweetness with each other. The movie is riotously funny but heart-catchingly touching and it will make you want to go back and hug everyone you are related to.
Parents should know that there is a non-graphic sexual situation, but it is clear that Toula and Ian wait until they are really committed before going to bed together. Characters drink (Ian’s parents are introduced to powerful Greek Ouzo).
Families who see this movie should talk about why Toula has a hard time telling her family how she feels. How does this family compare to others that you know or have seen in other movies, or to your own? Does your family have a combination of ethnic cultures, and what are some of the issues that have come up in meshing them?
Families who enjoy this movie will enjoy some other family cultural clashes in Moonstruck (some mature material) and Flower Drum Song.