Monday, May 3, 2010

Mamma Mia!: For My Momma

Next Sunday is Mother's Day.  (Don't worry. You still have a week to get your mom something.)  So, for my favorite movie selection this week, I decided to write about one of my mother's favorites as well, "Mamma Mia!"

Released in 2008, this film version of the smash hit stage musical stars Meryl Streep, Pierce Brosnan, Amanda Seyfried, Christine Baranski, Julie Walters, Colin Firth and Stellan Skarsgard.  Seyfried's character Sophie is about to get married, but she doesn't know which one of her mom's (Streep) ex-suitors is her father.  So, unbeknownst to her mother, she invites all three possibilities (Brosnan, Firth and Skarsgard) to her wedding.  Of course, lighthearted joy and mayhem ensue, all set to the hit music of ABBA.

My mom is one of the greatest people I know, and I'm not just saying that because I'm her daughter.  She has been married to the same man for 42 years now, come June 22 (which is also Meryl Streep's birthday, by the way).  She has raised two healthy, happy children, and as far as I can see, has not let a single ounce of love falter in all her family years.  She's a little quieter than the rest of us (my dad, my brother and me), a true Texas belle.  She doesn't get as excited and involved in movies and television like my dad and I do (many times to her boredom, such as when we start talking about "Lost").  But she still loves watching them.  And thanks to her taste, I have come to love musicals and romances just as much as war movies and action films.  I am a true, perfect combination of my parents, and I love that.

And even though she's a bit quieter, I know she's still a fighter for family, especially her kids.  I can totally see some of my mom in Meryl Streep's role (minus the slutty part where she sleeps with 3 guys in a 2-week period.  Mom, if you ever did that, I don't want to know!).  Streep first saw the stage production of "Mamma Mia!" on Broadway in October 2001.  She then wrote a letter to the producers afterward, thanking them for bringing a little bit of lighthearted joy into the lives of New Yorkers after 9/11.  Little did she know that she would soon be bringing that joy to millions herself.  "Mamma Mia!" the movie, is the highest-grossing musical of all time, breaking the previous 30-year record held by "Grease."  It also was the 5th highest-grossing film of 2008, and until "Avatar" came along, it became the highest-grossing film in UK history, surpassing "Titanic."  To date, it has made over $600 million worldwide.

And anybody can see why this film did so well.  Not only do you get the always-fun music of ABBA, you can see how much fun the cast had making it too.  Filmed mainly on location in Greece, it was like a paid vacation for the cast.  Getting paid to sing and dance in a beautiful location?!  How could things get better than that?  Oh yeah, Meryl Streep's there too, that's how.  Of course, everyone had to sing the songs themselves, which terrified the three men.  According to Firth, when he first had to meet ABBA band members Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson for the pre-recordings of the movie's songs, he had "images of myself, you know, floods of Ambian-fueled tears, while I was being shouted out in Swedish by bearded men."  Luckily, the ABBA members were friendlier than he thought, especially when he noticed how terrified both Brosnan and Skarsgard were too.  (And, oh!  Don't blink, but both the ABBA gentlemen have small cameos in the film - Andersson as a piano-playing fisherman and Ulvaeus as a Greek god.)

And even though we could all probably do without Brosnan ever singing again, Streep was beautiful as always.  This was not the first time she sang in one of her films though.  She sang in "Postcards from the Edge," "Silkwood," "Death Becomes Her," and "A Prairie Home Companion."  She even took opera singing lessons as a kid.  Is there anything Streep can't do?  Seyfried, on the other hand, started her career out as a child model and singer before getting her first noticeable acting role in "Mean Girls."  When she heard about the auditions for "Mamma Mia!," she thought she was losing out because she wasn't Greek.  (She had never seen the stage production.)  Her experience working with Streep was a dream come true though, saying "it doesn't really get better than this."

So, get out your dancing shoes, pop "Mamma Mia!" into the DVD player, and have some fun this week.  And, Mom, Happy Mother's Day!  I love you!

(Post-tidbit:  British actress Dawn French was originally cast in Julie Walter's role of Rosie, until she kept hearing her character described as the "fat, funny one."  She dropped out after that, but still did a spoof of "Mamma Mia!" with longtime collaborator Jennifer Saunders for BBC's Comic Relief.  (Enjoy that below.))

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