Not quite forty-eight hours and I am still recovering from the betrayal and sucker punch delivered by Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again.
Spoiler Alert: If you don’t want to know the plot, quit reading now.
Before I begin what I hope will be a cathartic rant, allow me to explain why this movie meant so much to me, and why literally killing the story-line is so personally disheartening.
Mamma Mia was first released in 2008. It was the year my mother got very sick, and it was the last movie she ever saw. I was hovering around my 50th birthday. My girls were around 10 and 14. I went to the movie, and during the first few scenes was looking at my watch to see when it would be over. (Don’t know why, but I found the Money, Money, Money song annoying.) I think it was the Honey, Honey number that grabbed me by the heart and drew me in.
I was instantly transported back to my own magical days of wonder. Before I knew it I was engulfed in the visual beauty of Greece, the allure and energy of youth, the palpable ecstasy of decades-long friendship. And, honest to Pete, with every scene the delightful narrative just got stronger and brighter and the denouement left me giddy with joy and pleasure.
I spent money and watched that movie SEVEN TIMES at the theater. Never before or since have I even watched one a second time. I even went alone on several of those occasions.
And then I shared it with my girls. We bought the DVD, viewed it over and over, sang with it in the car…it is not hyperbolic to say that Mamma Mia was an regular, notable influence on our family during the next ten years.
So, you can imagine our delight when the sequel was approaching. So much to look forward to! Both my girls are in another state now, and we dearly wanted to be together for opening night. Alas, we missed it by one day. I saw it a few hours before their allotted time.
I viewed it with a dear friend from high school. We arrived more than an hour early, sat through a half hour of trailers, and finally, finally! The opening shot.
And I knew it instantly…the magic was gone. The opening shot was quiet, dark and lacked energy. Expressions were dower. And then, God help me, Sophie hung up a picture of Dead Donna, and said something about “This is what mom would have wanted.”
Are you kidding me? ARE YOU KIDDING ME?
They effing killed Donna???
So I have read that “Meryl Streep doesn’t do sequels.” Well, good for her. Knowing that, the writers couldn’t have had her go to Europe to see a friend? Join the Peace Corp? DID THEY HAVE TO KILL HER? And yet she shows up at the end as a damn ghost, so she did in fact do a sequel?
Well, I have not been that sucker punched since they threw Anne Hathaway under the truck in One Day. (Or maybe when they hoed the otter in half at the end of the movie, Ring of Bright Water.)
And then the grief started. Sam grieving. They had four, maybe five years of happiness before her death. Sophie grieving. Then Rosie and Tanya arrive crying. Good grief, who writes this crap?
How in the hell are you supposed to start singing and dancing and telling vagina jokes WHEN THE MAIN CHARACTER/MOTHER/WIFE/FRIEND is DEAD?
Call me a wuss but I cried for two hours. And so did a lot of other fans. And then I got really pissed.
The trailers were deceptive. Meryl Streep’s interview was deceptive. All Judy Craymer appeared to care about was shoving her sequel out of the gate.
Meryl Streep in her own words:
“Indescribable joy…pure fun…?” In what universe is a dead mother/wife/friend “joy and fun?: And for the record, I had heard rumors about Dead Donna. And this above interview had me believe my fears were unfounded. Very deceptive. Not cool, Meryl. Not cool.
However, anger, betrayal and grief aside, let’s have a look at the actual quality of the sequel.
This isn’t just the bitter talking. The musical numbers were an insulting rehash of the ones that were so strong, energetic and powerful. The jokes were equally as weak. Rosie wobbling around like an imbecile made me want to slap her down in the chair she kept missing. Sky and Sophie, who in the first movie exuded unbounded energy and sexuality, looked like they’d been married fifteen years and wanted a divorce. And, of course, Harry was still spontaneous.
There were a thousand ways this narrative could have kept the magic alive without turning it into a tragedy. With the addition of Cher, I personally was expecting a healing reconciliation between Donna and her mother. I was expecting to see the rise of the Dynamos and perhaps a bit of Sophie’s childhood.
I have spent the last two days discussing this with many fans on social media. Many of them loved this new movie, and that is their prerogative. But many also feel as I do, that it was a blind-siding script and an insult to those expecting an actual “reunion.”
I hope this crappy bait-and-switch will never quell the wonder, beauty and near divination of the first Mamma Mia. Shame on the people who killed this narrative. You didn’t have to.
Here is a fraction of what made Mamma Mia so amazingly special and the only song I cried at during the first movie. Tears of love at the bitter-sweetness of mother and daughter-hood, not in any way tears of loss and grief:
RIP, Donna Sheridan