Sunday, July 13, 2008
Life according to… ABBA (Mamma Mia! The Movie)
After allowing a string of blockbusters (e.g. Sex and the City, Indiana Jones, The Incredible Hulk, among others) to come and go in local cinemas, my sister coaxed all three of us (my brother in law included) into watching MAMMA MIA! yesterday. If I only knew how wonderful this movie was earlier on, I would have gladly fallen in line on the first day! Simply put, the movie is a fantastic visual and auditory spectacle, light enough for you to forget the time and just have a *great* time, but (ABBA-)intensive enough for junkies to go ballistic.
(This Mamma Mia movie review reveals a few minor details about the film, FYI.)
Set on a small Greek island, the story revolves around the lives of 20-year old Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) and her mom, Donna (Meryl Streep). As they prepare for Sophie’s wedding, a curious series of events ensue when Donna’s erstwhile free-spiritedness catches up with her in the form of three ex-boyfriends, each of whom was invited by Sophie, thinking that she’d finally meet her dad in one of these three men. Sam (Pierce Brosnan), Harry (Colin Firth), and Bill (Stelan Skarsgard) come back to the Greek island, thinking they’d be *just* attending the wedding of their ex-girlfriend’s daughter. A happy melee ensues as Donna’s former backup singers Tanya (Christine Baranski) and Rosie (Julie Walters), Sophie’s bridesmaid, her fiancé Sky (Dominic Cooper), their friends, and the whole population of the island join in the family’s journey of love, freedom, and self-discovery, punctuated by wonderfully placed, endearing, enduring ABBA songs.
In not so many words, I love the movie!
The plot seemed too Pinoy for comfort- but I guess that’s one of its strengths: that the storyline is outrageous bordering on real, like what most Filipino movies and teleseryes embrace. But the story was given life by such wonderful actors, most notable of course is Meryl Streep, who effortlessly sheds her Miranda Priestly persona to embrace the uber- rambunctious character of Donna- innkeeper and mother of the bride. She just shines and owns the movie! My sister and I were trying to figure out who else could play her part: Diane Lane? Dianne Keaton? Nah- Meryl Streep nails it- every song, every tumble, every stomp of her platform shoes, every time.
Also showing her onscreen mettle is Sophie aka Amanda Seyfried, formerly a Mean Girls compatriot of Lindsay Lohan and a mainstay as Bill Paxton’s daughter in the groundbreaking HBO series about a polygamist family- Big Love (I *heart* this series!). She exudes freshness and subtle innocence, spiked with a feisty streak that convinced me that she IS Donna’s daughter. That her voice is SO easy on the ears is an understatement.
The rest of the cast are old reliables: classic Pierce Brosnan suaveness, impeccable Colin Firth dramedic timing. I have to admit the other main characters are recent blips on my very limited movieworld radar- but the Dynamos Aunt Tanya and Aunt Rosie render Donna more human and helps unravel her true soul.
Now, the songs.
First off, I thank my parents for their love of music, for always sharing with us “their” era and song choices. Else, the full impact of the movie would have been greatly muted (no pun intended). We grew up with many an ABBA tape and CD at home; my sister and I know at least the chorus of a good two-thirds of the songs sang in the movie. (The CD of the soundtrack which we bought as soon as we exited the cinema contains 17 songs used in the movie, but there are 1-2 songs sang in the film that weren’t in the CD. The CD is a blast, by the way! Consider getting it, please!)
The songs were PERFECTLY placed- they captured the emotions and thoughts of the characters in the scenes they were sung: joy, giddiness, delight, frustration, anguish. The actors molded the songs into tools to display these thoughts and emotions. I never knew ABBA churned out a HUGE repertoire of songs that depict a wide range of human situations, from a parent letting go of a child about to venture into the adult world (Slipping Through My Fingers) to an overt declaration of availability to the world (Take A Chance on Me). The songs seemed very well placed- they enhanced the storytelling without obscuring key details and plotlines. Watch out for my favorite scenes- the Dancing Queen sequence and the The Winner Takes It All sequence!
Vistas of the Greek island where the story unfolded exploded on screen, add to this sensory feast. The dawn/dusk scenes, the march up the white chapel, the dock scenes with the crazy island denizens and wedding party are my favorites! They framed the songs and emotions perfectly I felt like jumping unto the screen to join them or it felt like they’d burst out unto the theater for sheer joy of doing what they do. The island residents and inn employees provide nifty one-liners and sidelong glances that propel the comedy or underscore poignant points.
This movie is such a joy to watch, especially for ABBA fans, videoke junkies, musical mavens. If you don’t fit in any of those categories, the movie may seem a bit… off… considering that they break out into song not a few times in the film. This last fact seemed lost to many filmgoers, evidenced by the poorly stifled guffaws of some people in the theater we watched the movie in.
But even if you define yourself as having very minimal interest in ABBA in particular or music in general, the film offers a scintillating love story, set in a picturesque locale, with characters portrayed by a fantastic cast, framed by songs so apt they are both timely and timeless.