“Mamma Mia!” — what a movie! Exhilarating, dazzling, breathtakingly beautiful for your eyes, rockingly wonderful for your ears, and energetically enchanting for your heart, “Mamma Mia” is pure, unadulterated fun.
Based on the smash Broadway hit, “Mamma Mia” revives the old-fashioned movie musical with such a flourish that I kept thinking—where have you BEEN, musicals? Welcome back!
The story of the film is simplicity at its best. A young woman (a charming young actress named Amanda Seyfried) is getting married on the idyllic Greek isle where her mother runs a dilapidated Inn. Not knowing who her father is, she sends wedding invitations to the three men with whom her mother had “liaisons” during the summer of her conception. The guys show up. A wedding occurs. End of storyline. To tell the truth, the story doesn’t always make perfect sense, either in its timeline or in its playing out. “Mamma Mia” is not, however, terribly concerned with its logic or reason (both of which are often overrated) and either was I. Why not? Have I mentioned yet how much fun the film is?
The music was written by the legendary, reviled, revered, ABBA. If you were alive during the 1970s, you either loved or ridiculed ABBA. Even if you were born later and have never heard of them, you’ll be dancing in the aisles anyway. I dare you not to rock out to “Dancing Queen”. Double dare you.
At the epicenter of all the fun is the inestimable, and I DO mean inestimable, Meryl Streep. Meryl plays Donna, the mother in question. A wacky, 1970s refugee who used to front an all-female trio called Donna and the Dominoes. Meryl sings all her own songs and, as with everything else she tackles, her voice is fantastic, making her completely believable as a singer. Ms. Streep is the engine that propels the entire film and there really are no words that can accurately describe how brilliant, daring, and utterly fearless she is in the role.
Of the three potential fathers, the suave and debonair Pierce Brosnan deserves special mention. He plays a forlorn ex-lover who couldn’t even spell the word “cool.” And he sings his own songs, too. Badly. Very badly. And do we ever love him for it. For all of us who can’t carry a tune, Brosnan is the Greek god of dissonance. Singing with gusto, feeling, and enthusiasm, his fearlessness as an actor almost matches Streep’s and that puts him in very rare company indeed.
In fact, fearless performances rule the day in the film. Also along for the hilarity are the other potential fathers (Colin Firth and Stellan Skarsgard) and Christine Baranski and Julie Walters, who throw themselves into their roles as Donna’s former backup singers with reckless and openhearted abandon.
And, lastly here, let’s also raise a mighty toast to being middle-aged, or maybe even “two-thirds” aged or more. Except for the young lovers in the film, and Mr. Firth at a mere forty-eight, all the other actors are in their fifties and Ms. Streep is actually going to be sixty next year. Take that, young ‘uns! Watching Meryl and her cohorts race around a Greek Island (be prepared to put Greece on the top of your want -to-travel-to list) is an inspiration to us all. And a joyous reminder that much of the so-called “aging process” is rooted only in our attitudes. When we embrace love, fun, and spontaneity, age is truly irrelevant and then, mamma mia!, what a party life can be.