Saturday, July 19, 2008

Avoid Mamma Mia, Save Meryl’s Reputation

“I have a dream……”

That’s how it begins, and after those words are sung the dream quickly becomes a nightmare.

I’ve always wanted to keep the Gemini Art blog positive and upbeat. I don’t want to be perceived as the typical spiteful, bitter ol’ queen with nothing but venom to spew onto the Internet. However, I must use a little space here to complain about the great injustice done to a musical theatre piece that I love very much. “Mamma Mia: The Movie” had to be one of the worst things I’ve ever paid money to sit through. The last time I paid money to endure that much suffering was for my last dental filling. I think the audience was in agreement with my opinion judging by the snickers and giggles I heard at inappropriate times through the show (some of them from me).

I went into the movie with some skepticism. If anyone has seen Meryl Streep’s closing number at the end of “Postcards from the Edge”, they would have known that casting her in a leading musical role might not be the best idea. But, I loved the stage version of the musical and was eager to see what this all-star cast would be able to do with it. I also attended the movie with a couple of fellow “fancy-boys”. Needless to say, our people are quite friendly to the musical theatre format. But it wasn’t long before we were all three wincing and cringing with embarassment of watching this talented actress crash and burn in this glorious cinematic failure. After the first two bars of Streep’s “Money, Money, Money”, her Donna looked old, tired, pathetic and totally unbelievable. By the way, for the uninitiated, Donna is the heroine of our story. We’re supposed to be cheering for her, not pitying her. Her dancing was a difficult routine of awkwardness to watch. I kept averting my eyes in discomfort while watching a near 60 year-old in overalls and stringy hair attempt sexiness and touching herself inappropriately. You know, it’s the same feeling you get when you accidentally walk in on grandma in the bath tub (just add music).

Now, for some compassion. I love Meryl. The ol’ girl’s got skills. She’s one of the most talented and consistent leading ladies in Hollywood. In a dramatic role, there’s none better. Remember “Silkwood“? As a comedian, she can go there too. I loved, loved, loved her in, “Death Becomes Her”, and “The Devil Wears Prada”. I would bet that a professional actress like her is probably delivering the dialogue and presenting the character exactly like she’s being asked to. So, we should probably blame the director for this turkey.

Streep is surrounded with an all-star ensemble that has big-time show biz creds. But, this was just not the movie for them. Pierce Brosnan is still the dashing, tall, dark and handsome business that he’s always been. He is still leading man material in anybody’s book. Who doesn’t love “007”? I promise, any day of the week, I would let Pierce Brosnan be the “Spy Who Shagged Me”. But if I have to listen to that man sing I’ll have to put him on the couch for the night. The casting director should have asked Brosnan’s agent if he can sing because this is a MUSICAL. And, by the way, he can’t.

I didn’t understand the weird interpretation of the movie’s time setting or the characters ages. In the dialogue we hear that Donna was a young “rock chick” in the early 70’s. Her daughter was born in 1974 and is now 20 years old. If Donna and her friends were around 20 in 1974 then they should now be about 40. But, its obvious that the adult leads in the movie are closer to 60 than 40. The freakish idea of any one of them has a 20 year old daughter here in 2008 is just bizarre. I wasn’t sure what type of strange scifi time-warping explanation the director has for this. Whatever.

The players that came closest to hitting their parts were Christine Baranski, Julie Walters, and Colin Firth. These three certainly understood that they were in a musical comedy. Baranski and Walters looked like they were having fun. I’ve met old sisters like them who enjoy being silly and don’t take themselves too seriously (my mother for one). You could tell they were laughing at themselves and it made it fun to laugh along with them. Baranski is an old pro at playing the man-eating middle-age cougar. It would have been fun to see more of her in this picture. Firth brought us some of the same Mark Darcy up-tight Brit that we loved in Bridget Jones’ Diary except here he was much more the ham. It was nice to see him playing for laughs against Brosnan’s straight man, the role that Firth usually fills in the Bridget Jones movies.

Another positive about this movie is the beauty of the location and the male chorus line. For those of us that quickly tired of watching the poor performance of the leads and the messy story-telling in this movie it was easy enough to just shift our attention to the beautiful scenery. The locations made me want to move to Greece today and the Speedo clad man-candy singing and dancing their hearts out was enough to hold my attention if nothing else did.

So, if you want to see Mama Mia, be sure and see it on stage. I don’t want anyone to think that this movie is the appropriate interpretation of this musical. If you feel you must see this movie, then wait until it comes out on DVD and then borrow it from a friend. Do not spend money on this one.