OK, men, time to suck it up and go with her to see Mamma Mia! Yes, I know, it’s a “woman’s film,” what used to be termed “a chick flick.” This may, in fact, be the ultimate chick flick, but go anyway. It’ll be good for you.
Yes, it’s always ominous when a movie title ends in an exclamation point. Means it’s probably “over the top,” and this one’s more over the top than most. Don’t worry about whether it’s a good film. It’s not. In fact, it’s about as bad as films get, but the filmmakers had no intention whatsoever of making good or even respectable film. It does boast a talented cast, and not one of them exhibits a whiff of inhibition. This is a no-holds-barred, throw-caution-(and reputations)-to-the-wind, utterly shameless and unapologetic piece of fluff.
Which is why you should go see it.
Granted, you need a willing suspension of criticism, similar to the willing suspension of disbelief required with most films lately. The latest Indiana Jones film, for instance. That was a bad movie, too, but you didn’t mind. Mamma Mia! is to estrogen what Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is to testosterone. It is a celebration of feminine energy.
Yes, that’s intimidating. Yes, it will scare the living daylights out of you at first. But you dragged her to see Indiana Jones. Fair is fair.
This is the second major “women’s hit” of the summer. I didn’t see Sex and the City, but I gather this film could be retitled Sex and the Greek Island. There’s no actual sex in it, but sexual energy runs throughout like an exposed power line.
If anyone attempted to live even one day at this level of energy output, they’d have to check into a hospital to be treated for exhaustion. The gulf between the amount of energy accessible to most members of the viewing audience and the amount generated onscreen is so vast it’s exhausting just to think about.
If men are from Mars, this film was shot on Venus-or the planet Aphrodite, which is the Greek equivalent-and the movie aims to acquaint us with our long-interred pagan roots. Characters don’t just burst into song. They burst into songs by ABBA, the Swedish group from the 1970s, who enjoyed a long string of high-energy chart-toppers. Someone (a woman, I’m pretty sure) had the bright idea of creating a very light plot framework on which to dangle these ditties, and the stage version has been entertaining audiences for years.
Of course, the stage imposes a certain discipline on the fevered imaginations of theater producers and directors. With film, on the other hand, the lid is off. This film is definitely off its medication.
Ironically, the plot revolves around men. For one thing, all of the songs are written or co-written by a man. Then there’s the interesting coincidence that “Abba” in Hebrew means father.
But who really cares? Meryl Streep plays a middle-aged former girl band member who runs a small resort on the perfect Greek island (exact details are a bit fuzzy and didn’t seem important, so I didn’t pay much attention), and she has a daughter who is about to get married. But she doesn’t know who her father is and wants him there. After reading her mom’s diary, she invites three likely culprits. The Holy Trinity (Father, Son, and Pierce Brosnan) arrive like ghosts to terrify mom with reminders of her somewhat reckless past.
It all works out beautifully, of course, but not before some amazing production numbers involving orchestrated, choreographed mass euphoria, culminating in the showstopper tune, “Dancing Queen,” during which all the woman on the island cast off their chores and responsibilities and rush to the sea.
Let’s just say this scene puts John McCain’s admission that “Dancing Queen” is his favorite song in a very interesting context. Maybe he’s more in touch with his inner feminine than he lets on.
Regardless, it’s hard not to be swept away by all this feminine energy, and the actors certainly look like they’re having the time of their lives.
Seeing this movie is like reading The Da Vinci Code and realizing that our collective psyche is tipped out of balance in favor of patriarchy and the future of civilization itself depends on restoring the balance.
If nothing else, it’s good for men to see women up on screen looking radiantly, exuberantly happy. I’m sure that’s why women have been flocking to this film.
Why should we miss out on all the fun?