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mama mia

Mama Mia
Phyllida Lloyd
Cast: Meryl Streep, Christine Baranski, Pierce Bronson, Amanda Seyfried,Steelan Skarsgard, Colin Flirth, Ashley Lilley, Colin Davis

Richard Tara

August 22, 2008

I was privileged to see the opening of Mama Mia in London several years ago.  As a child of the bygone era, I, like many members of the audience wept with nostalgia several times during the show.  I saw the musical one more time in London and again in San Francisco and each time it was an emotional upheaval for me.  It was embarrassing to weep so openly but then when I looked around there were many other tearful eyes around me and that made me comfortable to be with people like myself.  

The play was made on the premise of a simple story set on a Greek Island.  On the eve of her wedding, a young girl has sent for the three men who could be her fathers since she wants to discover her true identity.  The rest of the story is purely a trip of pure joyful songs and music by the talented team of Abba: Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus.

The movie as a whole is very well done though rather amateurishly.  The music and the songs save the movie.  It is not easy to remake a play into a movie and many directors have discovered that to their dismay.

Almost all of the music in this movie is from the original show.  For some reason, the directors have included another piece of music written in 2006 by Bjorn for the Madonna’s confession tour Hang Up.  It was not part of the original play and does not qualify as a true vintage Abba piece.  However, the score gives the movie some dynamism.   The story itself is not original.  In 1968 Gina Lollabrigida along with Shelley Winters, Phil Silvers, Telly Savalas and Peter Lawford starred in “Buena Sera, Mrs. Campbell” which was essentially the same story that was adopted by the producers of Mama Mia!

I have never been a fan of Meryl Streep and despite many other reviewers do not consider her the greatest living actor alive.  She is a highly overrated actress.  Unfortunately, Hollywood, or more correctly the members of the  Academy of Motion Picture Arts, more often than not awards Oscars based on politics or emotions of the time. Meryl is truly miscast in this movie.  Donna Sheridan is supposed to be a woman in her late thirties or early forties with a wild past. She is now settled in managing a small hotel and is resigned to taking care of her 20 year old daughter. Meryl is nearly sixty years old and she looks it.  Amanda Seyfried who plays her daughter, Sophie, is supposed to be 20 but looks like a sixteen year old.  Next to Amanda, Meryl looks more like her grandmother.  One cannot imagine her having a daughter as young as Amanda Seyfried.

The hottest performance, by far, was by Christine Baranski.  She is so full of life and ethereal energy and she sure knows how to dance and groove that thing even though her legs are on the thin side.

Pierce Brosnan could do with a few more singing lessons as well.  What happened to the good old art of voice-overs?  He really sucked in this one. The rest of the cast just sailed along and got paid for it.

The cinematography by. Haris Zambraloukos was crisp and brilliant and conveyed the heady and hot atmosphere of Eastern Mediterranean.  However, as my friend Ricardo Barberini has said many times, it is very easy to take magnificent outdoor shots. You just point the camera and it does the rest for your.  The indoor tight bracketed shots are the difficult ones that test the mettle of the talented cinematographer.

Of course I did not expect a realistic story line from this tale of fantasy.  So, I am not disappointed and I loved the movie anyway.  I only wish the lead actors were more with it!

I give this movie starstarstar.  Despite some shortcomings, it is a wonderful movie to watch for the entire family.