Thursday, August 2, 2018

One of the most important things a writer can do, to me, is to create characters we care about, that we want to see more of, and read more and more about long after their story ends. In that vein, I'm reviewing a movie that does exactly that and helped me inject more life into the series characters I created for Weddings by C &C. Enjoy!


Review: Mamma Mia!!! Here We Go Again

WARNING: MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS IF YOU HAVEN'T SEEN THIS MOVIE! DO NOT READ IF YOU DON'T WANT TO KNOW!

My daughter dragged me to see Mamma Mia 1 way back. She literally came to my workplace, where I was putting in dozens of unpaid hours for an upcoming huge monitoring review and said, "We are going to the movies. Now."

I'm glad she did. It was fun, silly, and just what my overworked brain and body needed at the time.

So when Mamma Mia 2 was announced, there was no question my daughter and I would go see it. Only this time, with my granddaughter, too. Three generations, just like in the movie.

I'm glad we did.

Let me also say we were the youngest in the theater. It was filled with senior type couples. A group of senior ladies, obviously doing a 'girls afternoon out' sat about three rows behind us. They were almost better than the movie! The SANG (one was WAY off key, and made me feel better about my shower-only singing) and laughed, gasped and cried. I loved their reactions.

But to the movie...which upfront, is fluffy, fun, and not plot heavy. It's not going to win 'serious film' awards. And it's not meant to do that. It's meant to reunite us with our favorite ABBA performing megastars. And give us a whole lot of fun.

And damn if it didn't make me also sob like a bloody baby and leave the theater with my face a mess.

There are several inconsistencies from the first film, such as the order in which young Donna meets her three young lovers. There are definite variations from the pictures MM1 Sophie was shown of the three men in MM1. 

The young Donna, Rosey, and Tanya are PERFECT. They play the roles so well they could actually BE themselves 20 years younger or older. It's truly incredible and a delight to see.

Many characters return, including the stick bearing older woman from MM1 and the cameo piano playing actual ABBA band member. Almost all the main characters are there, in their 5 (actual 10) yr older appearances but I missed Tanya's young suitor, Harry's Greek paramour, and especially Sophie's two best friends from MM1. And I missed the 'big' hits...though I do love how the movie plays the instrumental songs from MM1 in the background as we see the older versions.

The 'present day' story picks up around five years after the ending of Mamma Mia 1. Sophie and Skye have traveled the world and now she's back on the 'little island'. Skye is in New York, training at the 'finest hotel' available (it's not named, probably a wise diplomatic intentional move). Sam lives on the island as well. Bill is in Sweden receiving and award and Harry is contract negoiating in Japan. Sophie has worked hard to make the hotel Donna bought with money Aunt Sophia (and Sophie's namesake) left her. She's made it the perfect 'romantic getaway' discussed in the first film. It's really gorgeous and made me want to take a Greek vacation.

And during a breakup phone call between Skye and Sophie, we learn a shocking twist that literally made our entire theater scream, "NO!" MAJOR SPOILER AHEAD>>>>>

Sophie and Sam especially, are in deep mourning. Sam plays this so very well, to the point you feel his pain. Sophie plays her grief and reasons for staying on the island forever, fulfilling her mother's dream, also very well. Some at the start, in the middle, and particularly at the end. We see Tanya and Rosey experiencing and dealing with their sorrow with Rosey crying anytime a certain name is mentioned.

Donna, you see, has died about a year ago. And Sophie is determined to make her proud and finish the work Donna began making the hotel all Donna dreamed it could be. As Sam recalls his 'dancing queen', we go back 20 years, to the very young Donna, Rosey, and Tanya at their college graduation.

The ceremony is a HOOT. Shocking, surprising, and would never be allowed now. We hear the song, 'I Kissed the Teacher", a lesser known (at least to me) ABBA hit. Then Donna decides to go off and see the world, with a bit of reference to finding places for the girl band to perform.

Paris is first, where she meets young Harry. The scene where they perform 'Waterloo' in the middle of a Paris cafe made me giggle. Waterloo didn't go so well for the French as I recall, so singing a song about it in Paris...well. The inclusion of all races, genders, and abilities is shown in the dance scene, with a solo of a woman in a wheelchair (which to me looked way too modern to be in a 1970's cafe, but that's nitpicky). 

Second is Greece and the 'little island' where Donna finds the 'old farmhouse' (which is literally falling apart) that will become the hotel, a trapped horse, plus Bill and Sam. Bill she meets after she misses the ferry and he sails her to the island, doing his best to 'score' and failing. There's an adorable scene of 'true love' with another couple who come back later in the movie.

Donna and Sam have instant chemistry, and she ends up spending his week with him. Then Sam leaves to fulfill his engagement and she's broken. In every way. She finds Sophia, Sophia's bar & band owning son,(they are...not great, and funny as heck) and wrangles a gig for the girl band. 

Rosey and Tanya arrive for the gig and do their best to cheer up broken hearted Donna, including Tanya shoving her toward Bill (who has returned) even as Rosey lusts after him for herself. We learn here Rosey wanted Bill from the start, and only stepped aside for Donna. THAT's a TRUE friend. Rosey solution to disappointment and heartbreak? CAKE. 

Did I mention I most identify with Rosey? She's a writer, after all, and she thinks a cake is an answer to everything. I love that woman.
(See, I think of them as people, as a reader/viewer should, not as a 'character' even as my logical mind tells me they are simply characters, I still feel I KNOW them. THAT, my dears, is the mark of great writing).

Bill is her 'rebound'. It's obvious, but she also likes him, in a friend type way. I was disappointed Rosey didn't get her chance, to be honest, but then that would have been a huge deviation from MM1.

Donna learns she's pregnant as Sophie, present day, learns she is, too. Present day is a mess, with the planned huge re-opening Gala for the hotel canceled and ruined by a huge storm. All seems lost...then Bill and Harry arrive with dozens of local fishermen. The scene with the two of them recreating the iconic scene from Titanic is one of the funniest of the movie.

Here is 'Dancing Queen' and it's spectacular. The hotel folks are bobbing and dancing and the those in the ships are moving and grooving. Those in the hotel join those from the boats on the dock, where Sophie and Sam reunite with Harry, Bill, and Skye. Rosey and Bill are on the rocks: she just can't abide his roaming eye any longer.

The party is on...and an unexpected visit from Grandma (Cher) makes it complete, with tons of music, a lost love found, 2 characters on the rocks achieving smooth sailing again and Skye declaring Sophie is more important than anything, and the announcement of Sophie's pregnancy.

As Sophie gets her lifelong chance to be part of 'Donna and the Dynamos', we see young Donna giving birth aided by Aunt Sophia. It's powerful, tear-jerking, and really makes the movie more special and less 'fluff'.

Cher performs 'Fernando' aided by epic fireworks.

But the best scene to me, though I sobbed through it....

As Donna in the past walks to the little chapel on the top of the hill to christen baby Sop, Sophie and all in the present do the same for Sophie's son. It's powerful and absolutely heartbreaking as Donna, from MM1 appears seen only by Sophie. She and Sophie sing together as mothers.

Oh. My. God. Tearing up again as I type this.

Stay for the end scene song, with the whole cast, including Cher and Meryl S. There's also an end fo credits scene that is cute and funny.

So all in all, go see Mamma Mia 2, and take tissues. 

Now I'm off to create characters who make my readers feel they are real.....