I'm not much of a movie critic. For about the past 5 to 10 years I've seen one move per year on average. This year is different, though. We've seen several movies in the past few weeks, and our plan is to see them frequently. For two weeks in a row we've seen a movie on Sunday – the same movie as a matter of fact.
Mamma Mia, Here We Go Again
I kind of rolled my eyes when I saw that they had done a sequel. Sequels tend to be money grabs and cheapen the original work of art. I liked Mamma Mia the movie, and it bothered me that they might be selling out.
I no longer feel this way. This movie is everything it needed to be, and more. No spoilers intended, but it's a rather melancholy work. We find out in the opening that Donna, Meryl Streep's character, has died. Her presence is felt throughout the entire show, and so is her loss. But, like the first movie there is a lot of singing and dancing and good times, food and drink and happiness all over the place.
It begins with Sophie reopening the new and improved hotel in Donna's honor. The movie flips back and forth in time, showing us the younger characters, and then back to the present, which is a few years later than the closing of the first movie. Young Donna, Tanya and Rosie are just graduating college (research indicates that this would be 1979, but I don't know how they know that unless they are peeking into the screenplay) and we meet Young Harry, Bill and Sam as the movie progresses.
Barry and I first saw Mamma Mia, HWGA with a group of friends in a fancy theater that has a bar and serves food while you watch the movie. (Having a drink before Mamma Mia is very appropriate. They are drinking almost as much as in Book Club.) It was during the number, "One of Us" that I first got misty-eyed. This sort of behavior continued and increased in frequency and intensity as the movie progressed.
Let me back up a little, though. The young Donna is beautiful and I can't keep from thinking about her. The actress is Lily James and she is amazing. One of my friends mentioned that she was impressed that not all of the actors and actresses were thin, perfectly-shaped models. I suppose that's true, but in my humble opinion the Young Donna is about as close to a perfect shape as it can get. She's not thin, but she's not fat, either. She's like a gymnast when she dances and the image of it is imprinted on my mind.
The numbers were more like those that I remember from the stage performance. Professional dancers filled the screen, all happy and bouncing around and it just makes you feel good. The first dance scene is when we first see Young Donna; she's graduating from college and she surprises the attendees by breaking into a song and dance routine with Tanya and Rosie. All of the students join in as background dancers – not entirely unlike the Greek chorus that we saw in the original Mamma Mia, the Movie. And, when Donna first meets Harry and he breaks into Waterloo in a Parisian restaurant, backed up by all of the staff. We see a lot of cinematographic playfulness. (The New Yorker's review of the movie puts all of this quite nicely and intelligently.) Two young people in a restaurant in Paris, a dance scene with all of the waiters and waitresses dancing back-up and support, encouraging them in their romantic endeavors... how could a person not be happy while watching that?
Well, because as we see Donna search, explore Europe and her life and meet the men who we already know are the three possible fathers of her daughter, we are aware that back in the Present Sophie is struggling with the loss of her mother – the same Donna we see developing. The specter of her death is all over the movie. And, seeing her find the farmhouse on the (imaginary) Greek island of Kalokairi, we know how it ends for her.
Maybe it's just me. I lost my father last year and a Very Special Cat this year, so I'm a little delicate. All through the movie I wanted to sing along to the songs, but even during the ones that are happy, I felt a tightening pain in my throat when I tried to sing, and I had to stop. This only increased the second time I saw it. (That would be this morning.) I shall have to see it three or four more times and keep trying to sing along. It really is a feel-good movie.
I have a couple of valuable take-aways from this movie. First and foremost, live life to its fullest. Take chances and don't be afraid to be hurt. Relish being hurt because you'll probably never feel quite as alive as you do then. Learn where your natural talents and interests lie and go for them 100%. I felt the first inklings of this concept after the first time I visited New Orleans. I was going to pursue fine art and be famous. I was going to be out there – Earnie with an exclamation point. Then I remembered that I had adult responsibilities and a job and all of that faded and I went back to work and drowned. I resurfaced a few years later with the help of this blog.
The second take-away is sort of silly by comparison, but it bears mentioning. The second thing that I got out of this fabulous movie is to be reminded of how impressionable I am. When I had the flu (decades ago) I was on the sofa watching TV, and I craved pizza like nobody's business. I had been subjected to I-don't-know how many types of pizza commercials, over and over, and although I couldn't even eat a scrambled egg, I really, really wanted... needed a pizza. And, after watching this movie the first time I really, really need... rings. On my fingers. One or two fingers, not sure.
I felt this after the first time we saw it, and now after the second time, there is no doubt. The feeling did not fade, the need only grew stronger. Mind you, this is a need, not just a want. I cannot be the Rather Earnest Painter without pursuing my passions and right now having a ring on my hands is a blinding passion. Barry showed me his ring, which he was wearing, when we got out of the movie. I haven't seen him wear that thing in years. Clearly he felt the same thing. Fortunately, we have a lot of friends who are artists. Unfortunately, they probably wouldn't be thrilled with seeing me show up on their doorstep at 10PM asking to see their inventory. This is how much I need a ring in my life right now.
So, go see this movie. Let it inspire you. Let it make you happy and sad and let it make you feel alive. And dance.