I went to university in Lancaster with the Lake District basically on my doorstep. I love the Lakes and, as a steadfast Romanticist, should have spent every weekend exploring the part of the world beloved by William Wordsworth. As it happens, I only went there once because I was too fucking lazy and probably drunk. That one time I stayed one night at a campsite full of awful teenagers whilst sharing a three man tent with three of my flatmates. I got absolutely no sleep and, because I like in the UK, the second day was a complete fucking washout. Probably the reason I never ventured back that way. Anyway, the reason I bring it up now is because our trip’s soundtrack was provided by the big Hollywood sensation that I’m about to discuss. As the only person in the car who hated the film, I was forced to listen to the great Meryl Streep and the almighty Bronhom murder ABBA songs for hours on end. I think the fact that I’ve watched the film so many times since is more than enough evidence of Stokholm syndrome.
Mamma Mia! is the hit stage musical written by Catherine Johnson. It genuinely boggles my mind that a musical based around the musical stylings of ABBA has grossed over $2 billion worldwide since 1999. Who the fuck is so desperate to see this shit? People lap it up though, which is why the show made its way to the big screen back in 2008. Getting the inimitable Meryl Streep on board was a stroke of fucking genius and the film easily became the highest grossing musical of all time.
It’s fucking insane. The plot is at best irrelevant; at worst insultingly contrived. Donna (Meryl Streep) lived a wild youth and slept with so many men that she simply has no idea who fathered her daughter, Sophie (Amanda Seyfried). Although, actually there are only three real candidates and they’re played by the least likely musical stars ever. Pierce Brosnan plays Sam, Colin First is Harry, and Stellan Skarsgard is Bill. All three of these gentlemen had wild pasts with Donna but have set those lives aside.
For some fucking stupid reason, Sophie invites her three potential fathers to her wedding on the family’s Greek island and, for an even more ludicrous reason, they all fucking turn up. Sophie goes all Sherlock Holmes to try and work out who she shared DNA with but learns absolutely fuck all of any use. In the end she doesn’t even find out who the father is?! The entire narrative is fucking pointless!
Whilst this is happening, Donna and her old chums Tanya (Christine Baranski) and Rosie (Julie Walters) are catching up on old times. Not only is this trio the least likely group of friends I’ve ever seen on film, they are highly irritating. Their entire purpose is to talk about their lost youth and lament they bad luck in love. Of course, by the end of the film all three desperate woman have been successfully paired off in a suitably dancey manner. This menopausal pursuit of love is the closest thing we have here to an actual purposeful plot. How fucking depressing is that?
Even more depressing when you consider all of these nonsense narrative strands are all crammed full of every ABBA song the writer could remember. I’m not saying that I mind the music so much: I mean there’s a time and a place for a good ABBA boogie. I just take umbrage with the shitty ways they’ve been shoehorned into the plot. It’s pathetic.
There’s just not much skill on show in the film. The writing is abysmal; the singing is either mediocre or laughably bad; the choreography is even worse than my Taylor Swift inspired awkward dance parties; and the love stories are anything but romantic. Before Mamma Mia, director Phyllida Lloyd was more used to directing stage productions and not Hollywood movies. She really does nothing inspiring with the material and offers very little to help her actors flourish.
There’s something so rage inducing about watching Meryl Streep flounder during the ‘The Winner Takes It All’ scene; I know she’s Meryl fucking Streep but at least help her out a little bit. She looks so lost that I sort of hate the fact she ended up in that position. Mamma Mia is, without a doubt, one of my least favourite film experiences. It’s a film that just gets everything so wrong, except the location. Although, to me, there’s something comforting about that. It’s nice to know that in an age of such great talent in this industry, there are still some people out there that are fucking it up.