“… nice Greek girls are supposed to do three things in life: marry Greek boys, make Greek babies and feed everyone until the day we die.”
The moment that Nia Vardalos utters those words, the world of “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” is established while at the same time shattered.
In 2002, a movie about a Greek-American woman getting married that was produced by Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson was thought to be a minor work, but when it was released it became a sleeper hit making more than 360 million dollars worldwide. At the 75th Academy Awards, “Greek Wedding” was nominated for Best Original Screenplay but lost to Pedro Almodovar’s “Talk to Her”.
Writer Nia Vardalos makes great economic use of dialog to describe her characters. Take the line “My mom was always cooking food filled with warmth and wisdom and never forgetting that side dish of steaming-hot guilt.” during a flashback, Toula’s (Vardalos) mother (Lainie Kazan) serves her family a meal and sees the younger brother Niko playing with his food. “…don’t play with your food. When I was your age we didn’t have food.” Those two lines tells us everything we need to know about her mother.
Also look at Toula’s cousins played by Gia Carides and Joey Fatone. They enter the restaurant (Dancing Zorba’s) demonstrating that they have two volumes: loud and louder. Which one is loud and which one is louder? Does it matter? The point is that the word “quiet” does not exist.
Another line is in the final scene after Toula and Ian (John Corbett) marry and have a child. They are walking her to Greek school and she asks, “Why do I have to go to Greek school?” The same question that Toula asked her mother. But instead of answering, “Don’t you want to be able to write your mother-in-law a letter?” Toula answers, “If you go, you can marry anybody you want.”
The characters in “Greek Wedding” are Vardalos’s family and they are not so different from my family – or anyone’s family for that matter. Most watch “Greek Wedding” and assume that it is simply a “look at my crazy immigrant family” movie. The fact that they are Greek has nothing to do with who they are as a giant family. On a date with Ian Toula parallels the differences between her family and Ian’s WASP family:
“… my whole family is big and loud and everybody’s in each other’s lives and business all the time. You never have a minute alone to just think, because we’re always together just eating, eating, eating.”
I love that line. I’m Filipino-American so I have no idea what it is like to have a Greek family. But I love that line because right now I am visiting my grandparents in Lompoc until sometime later this month. I have had a lot of time to think about what family means to me as a writer and as a person in general. Like Toula’s, my family is big and loud, but dammit I love them because we’re awesome. Most of all, our families are not so different. Whether you’re Greek, Filipino, English, Indian, Mexican or Chinese, we all come from big crazy families. Like Gus said, “In the end, we’re all fruit.”