Time: 94 mins.
Genre: Romantic Comedy
Academy Award nomination for Best Original Screenplay.
A romantic comedy that manages to hit all the right notes despite being fairly old-fashioned and by the book. What makes it so entertaining is the performance given by Nia Vardolas. As the film constantly points out, she's not your typical leading lady. Her looks are initially downplayed, turning the audience's focus on her funny, smart and charming personality. She's the star of this story and she makes the most of her moment in the sun. Much of the humor comes at the expense of her Greek heritage. We're told, more than once, that Greek families are not like any other. They may have different customs, but this story could have been told using any ethnic group. It just would have been quieter. Vardolas gives us an insider's view of her world, which she clearly both loves and loathes. One with strict rules and age-old traditions that are not easy to overcome. However, her light is not about to be kept in the closet and her transformation from ugly duckling to beautiful bride is a joy to behold.
Toula (Vardolas) spends much of her childhood and early adulthood wondering why she had to be born Greek and wishing she was cute and blond. She also wishes for a life outside her enormous family. One of her own choosing, out from under her father's thumb. It takes some feminine manipulation, but her father agrees to let her go to college to learn about computers. She uses this skill to escape the family restaurant and go to work in her aunt's travel agency. It's here, that she meets Ian Miller (Corbett), the man of her dreams. The only problem with their burgeoning love affair is that he's not Greek, a huge no-no. Every member of her family has married a Greek and her father is beside himself when he discovers her secret romance. Ian is undaunted by the families eccentricities and eventually wins over everyone with his openness and obvious love for Toula. In the end, love overcomes culture, bringing both families together to celebrate the future of the newly married couple.
The one thing that kept this from getting a higher rating was the one note character of Ian. Sure, he's smart, sweet, vegetarian and tired of his white bread existence, but that's about all we get to know about him. It's all surface info. If I was Toula I'd fall for him too, but the lack of depth takes away from her struggle to defy her family. What about him makes their relationship worth all the trouble? He's not obnoxious and misogynistic, but I needed more. Corbett does an amiable job, he's just not given enough to do. Granted it's Toula's story and a comedy, but I wanted more. While not on the couple, the film falls back on ethnic humor, which is funny, though not exactly breaking the originality mold. Kazan and Martin put in the best supporting turns as Toula's mother and aunt. They are both strong family women, who want the best for their husbands and children. Though Toula's mother doesn't understand her dreams, she fights for her to be able to attain them. It's the women who carry this piece and provide much of the humor. Vardolas pokes fun at her heritage, but the jokes come from the heart and are never mean-spirited. A light and romantic romp.