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Mamma Mia!

July 25, 2008

I am so not the audience for this.

I know, disclaimer, but fuck it, it has to be said.

Mamma Mia! as if you need telling, is the story of a young girl on a Greek island, whose ‘free-spirited’ mom (now a hotel owner) had three flings one summer twenty years earlier, such that she doesn’t know which of the trio is her real Dad. With her wedding imminent, the girl invites the group of aging suitors along (without telling her mother) to try and get the most fitting one to give her away.

With hilarious consequences. And songs.

This is a great fat farce of broad comedy and silly situations, played out in a simplistic Set Up, Joke, Set Up, Joke format that would make Gerald Thomas and Peter Rogers blush with embarrassment. If seeing Julie Walters fall off a boat into the sea is your idea of comedic perfection, then this is the film for you. There was certainly enough screeching hilarity ringing in my ears to suggest that there is indeed a substantial group of the population just ready to lap this up, and neither happy nor willing to ask why she was standing up in the dingy in the first place, rather than sitting, like everyone else would. Possibly wearing an “I’m Going To Purposefully Fall In” t-shirt would have telegraphed the ‘joke’ a little sooner, but it’s debatable.

But, hey, people laughed.

And they sang, too. I mentioned the songs, right?

Well, of course, you knew that, obviously, but it really needs to be hammered home, because in-between the numbers I disappeared into a shell of denial, thoroughly refusing to acknowledge what had just happened and what was just about to happen. Songs. Abba songs, pointed out with huge neon arrows of predictability before the first notes are sung. Crowbarred in like shoving diamonds back into the mine, the silliness of building a musical around songs written to be listened to as individual pieces really does hit home almost immediately.

Much has been said about the singing, some of which catches a fleeting glimpse of adequate, but which is mostly fairly poor. I guess I’m supposed not to care, that the essential feeling of joi de vivre and untethered recklessness is its own reward. That it’s all about fun? And it is fun, I can’t deny that, but it’s artifice. In Sondheim’s A Little Night Music, the song Send in the Clowns has often been handed to an actress unaccustomed to musical theatre who doesn’t normally have ‘a voice’. Liz Taylor in the movie, Judi Dench on the stage. Many people attack it because of the faltering cracked delivery that’s sometimes used, but that’s the whole point. Desirée is reflecting on the ironies and disappointments of her life, which include her rejection of a marriage proposal twenty years earlier. Meeting the same man after so many years, she finds that he is now in an unhappy marriage. She proposes to marry him, but he declines. It is this rejection that prompts the song, and the broken and cracked-open bitterness. It doesn’t matter how good a vocalist the person playing Desirée is, just that she imbues the song with the right sentiment.

So what’s everyone’s excuse here? The young girl is good, Meryl Streep as her Mom isn’t bad either, but beyond that this is ‘Allo ‘Allo with a soundtrack.

Phyllida Lloyd, the director might by saying with a smile, “Don’t you love farce? My fault I fear. I thought that you’d want what I want.”

Sorry, my dear.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. theinkisdrying permalink
    December 15, 2008 5:40 pm

    i love the movie, it made me laugh and cry.

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