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Summary: I am Greek. And if you’ve seen My Big Fat Greek Wedding, you’ll have seen some of my relatives - including my mother, who is a travel agent for guilt trips. (Recently, she returned the Christmas presents that my wife and I bought for her.)

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2002: IFC Films

Directed by Joel Zwick

Nia Vardalos as Toula

John Corbett as Ian

Rated PG for sensuality and language

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I am Greek. And if you’ve seen My Big Fat Greek Wedding, you’ll have seen some of my relatives - including my mother, who is a travel agent for guilt trips. (Recently, she returned the Christmas presents that my wife and I bought for her.)

You’ll have probably heard of lots of Greeks. There’s Homer (not Simpson, but the giant of ancient literature); the playwrights and dramatists Aesop, Sophocles, Aeschylus and Euripides; Pythagoras, the mathematician; Thales, the first person to measure pyramids; the father of modern medicine, Hippocrates; Herodotus, the historian; Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, the great philosophers; the Parthenon (OK, it’s a building, but it’s still Greek); and Pilavachi, the youth worker.

Although My Big Fat Greek Wedding is about a Greek family, its story has universal appeal – not least because, as the famous 19th-century poet P B Shelley once said, ‘We are all Greeks. Our laws, our literature, our arts all have their roots in Greece.’

Released in April 2002, this film became a surprise hit. It was produced on a very small budget with no major stars, but still managed to out-gross many of the more expensive and heavily promoted films.

The reason for such astonishing success is because My Big Fat Greek Wedding is a modern day Cinderella story; it’s a movie that touches our hearts, and is based on a true account. Nia Vardalos, who grew up in a Greek family and describes the story as an autobiography, wrote the script. ‘I believe that the movie is about any family that loves you to the point of smothering,’ she wrote.

And she’s right. Many of us will relate directly to her experience, whether we’re Greek or not. (Personally, I was so smothered by the Greek culture that when I went to school, aged five, I couldn’t even speak English. By eight, I was working in my father’s Greek restaurant.) Every family surely has its challenges.

The movie opens at 5 o’clock on a dark, rainy Chicago morning. Toula (played by Vardalos) and her father are driving to the family restaurant he owns and she has always worked for. Toula yawns, rather unattractively, as they sit side by side in the car. Her father looks over, frowns, and says (in his thick Greek accent), “You better get married soon. You starting to look old.”

She and her family are from Greece, but live in Chicago. Toula is a frumpy, dowdy thirty-something, quietly wasting away as a waitress in her father’s restaurant Dancing Zorba’s. She wears thick-rimmed glasses and seems outwardly, at best, to be utterly unremarkable.

According to her parents Gus and Maria, Toula’s purpose in life should be “to marry a Greek boy, make Greek babies and feed everyone”. But having failed to fulfil her cultural mandate so far, they are worried that she will wind up as a lonely old maid.

Toula may be ready for change. Unfortunately, the rest of her family is not. Since birth, she has struggled with the heritage her parents will not allow her to forget; and she despises the duty of having to ‘be Greek’.


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