Saturday, August 2, 2008

Mamma Mia!

Yesterday my 14-year-old daughter and I went to the movie theater to see Mamma Mia! I was seeing it for the second time, and Emma for the third. Had I had more time, after it ended I would’ve sat and waited for the next showing to begin, and watched it for the third time.

Is it a good movie? No, not really. Is it a happy, joyous, funny, goofy, delightful, life-affirming movie? Yes.

The first time I saw Mamma Mia! about two weeks ago, the movie started, and Amanda Seyfried started singing, instantly, and I had my doubts about the film. This is a MUSICAL musical. There’s lots and lots and lots of Abba songs. Seyfried has a pleasant voice, is likeable, and pretty. The song is so-so. I’m not a huge Abba fan, although this movie makes the most of the almost-interchangeable sounding songs. Seyfried’s enthusiasm and smile, not to mention her giggling and jumping up and down, could induce sugar-overload, but she won me over quickly. Her character is getting married to a man with a beautifully chiseled chest on an idyllic Greek island, where she lives with her single mother, Meryl Streep. Seyfried picks up her two best friends—her bridesmaids—at the dock. More jumping up and down and giggling. Another song. A few minutes later Streep drives in her beat-up old jeep to pick up her former back-up singers, Julie Walters and Christine Baranski. After this point I realized my face was starting to hurt because I was smiling so much. By the time the trio started singing "Dancing Queen," and skipping and running down to the dock, gathering other island women--old, young, fat, thin, pretty, average--along the way like semi-demented earth mother pied pipers, I realized I loved this film.

Look! Up on the screen! Lots of women! And look at the leads! Three women over 50! On screen at the same time! Actually, I just checked, and all three women are over 55. Not only are they over 55, they aren’t playing someone’s mother or girlfriend. They just…are. And they are beautiful. And they have wrinkles, (very little) body fat, glasses, etc. They are just…adult women. Getting to see three middle-aged (if they live to be 110…) women being flirty, sexy, seductive, and youthful was a delight. I also loved the friendship between the three, which felt very real. They teased each other, cheered each other up when one of them was blue, supported each other, obviously loved each other. I wanted to make it a quartet.

If you don’t like musicals, I can’t imagine you liking this film. This is a serious musical. Although I’ve never had a problem with people bursting into song on screen, even I might’ve cut a song or two here. Many reviewers complain about how not-very-good Mamma Mia! is, and then almost sheepishly admit to having a great time during the movie. [I enjoyed this Slate Spoilers review:]

The audiences for both viewings of Mamma Mia! were mixed. Yes, a lot of women of all ages, but boys and men, too. The audience’s enjoyment was palpable. Lots of laughing, WITH the movie, not AT it. The film's greatest strength is that it doesn’t take itself seriously at all. For gosh sake’s, the graphic of the title is silver, sparkly, flashy, all caps, and has an exclamation point. What greater sign do you need to say, “This is going to be a fun, splashy movie. Just come for the ride with us.” Both audiences even sat through the extra songs during the end credits, when there’s usually a mass exodus from the theater. I can only hope that the stars of the film were having even half as much fun as they seemed to be having.

Honestly, if anyone seeing Mamma Mia! ran screaming from the theater after the first three minutes, I’d understand. Anyone seeing a disjointed clip from the film might well loathe it, but somehow in context it all works. For me, anyway.

I liked how messy grown-up lives can be. When I was a kid, I thought grown ups had everything in hand, everything settled. Now that I’m officially grown up myself, I realize that most of the time we are all flailing about, and that nothing is ever really settled. Seeing Streep, Walters, and Baranski acting like very grown-up 14-year-olds, being silly, and most importantly, having tons of fun, made my spirit soar. Maybe I’m just so starved for images on screen of the future me. Maybe I’m simple-minded (probably). Maybe I’m easy to please (nah). I just loved this film. It was light and fun and I’ll see it again.


The Write Bunch said...

I've seen the trailer a few times while waiting for other films to start and commented to my companions that it looked like a US mashup version of a grand Bollywood movie! How fab!! I think this will be my next foray to the movie theater. :)

The Write Bunch said...

Let me know what you think! If you're like most of the people I know, you'll say, "Wow, it was really bad, and I loved it!"-HC-