Monday, July 28, 2008

Mamma Mia!

I saw Mamma Mia! over the weekend. I didn't know much about it (other than it was based on a successful Broadway musical, featured ABBA music, and starred Meryl Streep and Pierce Brosnan). I like to go see a film without any preconceived notions or influences—I usually don't read reviews, I change the channel if a preview comes on the TV, and I've been known to shush the people at the next table in a restaurant who were talking too loudly about a movie that I planned on watching, but hadn't yet seen. Some of my best movie experiences have occurred because I walked into a film knowing nothing about it, without any idea of what would happen. I'm not necessarily recommending my technique, since some of my WORST movie experiences have also occurred because of this ignorance.

So, if you have not yet seen Mamma Mia! but are planning to watch it some day, please DON'T READ ANY FURTHER. I've got enough guilt in my life, I don't need to start worrying that I've given away the plot to you.

It's a little over the top—definitely a musical, where characters break into song and dance even in the dramatic moments—but I was in the right mood to receive it. Meryl Streep gets all the credit for finding the balance between the larger-than-life performance required by Broadway and the genuine emotion necessary for cinema. She sets the lead for the rest of the cast to follow. I loved the middle-aged actors, bad voices and all; they were such good sports to dance and sing and jump into the water. Kudos especially to Christine Baranski, who is the most qualified musical performer of the bunch. She's got a beautiful set of legs, but still, it's not easy for any woman to let herself be filmed so up close and personal . . .  she did a great job in her cougar solo, "Does Your Mother Know." Pierce Brosnan is as good an actor as he is gorgeous. He just keeps getting more and more handsome the older he gets!

My boyfriend Pierce is not the only beautiful thing about the movie, though . . . the story is set on a Greek island and the scenery is breathtaking. The blue water is a color that I don't think I've ever seen on film. The girl who plays the daughter, Sophie, is also stunning. The lighting is amazing, with the main characters sparkling almost as much as the water. Streep literally has a glow around her as she dances through the courtyard. 

Mamma Mia! is not a perfect movie. It should have ended at the church, but went a couple more numbers too long (almost like they had to prove they could work in every ABBA song). The daughter deciding not to get married was a weird choice; she stated that her boyfriend "never wanted any of this," but he had definitely wanted to get married to her, hadn't he? He just wanted to elope and keep it small. The fact that she needed to get off the island was mentioned numerous times by her fiance/father/mother, but never by her--so her epiphany that she needed to pursue her own passions and that her boyfriend didn't want to get married seemed forced.

Harry ending up gay was really unexpected--was it like that on Broadway? I thought he'd end up with Baranski's character and that Bill would end up with the cookbook writer. The whole joke on the boat when Harry was talking about what he needed to do to make right by his daughter (while Bill was thinking that he was talking about coming out of the closet) was ruined when it turned out that he indeed was gay. So did I misunderstand the joke, and he really was talking about coming out of the closet? Anyway, his sudden interest in the Greek boy at the end seemed very contrived and stuck in there last minute. Almost like, hey! we all know gay men like Broadway musicals so here's a little something for you.

My absolute favorite scene was "Dancing Queen," as Streep's friends encouraged her to revisit her youth. She was so joyful and carefree, jumping on her bed and then dancing down the trail like the teenager she used to be. As she wound her way toward the water, woman after woman joined her until the number ended with a huge line of women dancing down on the dock; when a stereotypical Greek mama with dark shirt, huge boobs, and a scarf covering her head threw off her bundle of sticks to join them in celebration, I almost started CRYING! As we move into and out of middle age, most of us are seen by others only as mothers and grandmothers. We take on the responsibilities of the matriarch, seeing that our households run smoothly and that our families are healthy and happy, but at the cost of our youth and joie de vivre. While everyone else is laughing and playing games at the table, we're working in the kitchen to clean up or get dessert ready.

Perhaps it's because I've just marked another birthday, but this scene made me realize that it's been a while since I've let myself feel young and carefree and spontaneous. I've stifled myself because of my daily work load and my motherly responsibilities, but really it just takes a shift in perspective. I need to dance more, sing often, and jump on the bed in abandon (okay, maybe I'll go into the backyard and jump on the trampoline in abandon). So, thanks for that nudge, Mamma Mia! Your flaws are forgiven, because that reminder alone was worth the cost of the movie and popcorn!

Dinner last night: cheeseburgers off the grill


Helene said...

Okay, so I skipped reading the rest after your warning to not read it if you were planning on seeing the movie, which I am one of these days when I can break free from the kids. Tim won't see it b/c he says it's a total chick flick and he's probably right.

I'm a sucker for ABBA music!

Kim said...

I just saw it and I loved it!

Several years ago, my oldest SON (who is a great singer!) recorded "Dancing Queen" at a mall recording studio. I think he was like 5 or 6. He knew all the words and everyone in the mall could hear him singing and just thought he was wonderful. So, ABBA music is part of our family.

I just wish that I had been in an audience that would have sang along and gotten in to the music. We all know the words, we all know the music. It just would have made it.

Pierce Brosnan is just so gorgeous. Colin Firth is hilarious. Meryl Streep is unbelievable. The whole cast was great!

I am glad that my sister-in-law asked me to go. I never would have seen it otherwise. And I waited until after I had to read this review.

Kim said...

Dancing Queen was playing over the speakers in the dentist's office yesterday and I couldn't help myself . . . I actually danced a little right there in the lobby.