MAMMA MIA: Tight Jackets and Teary Eyes

There’s a specific feeling that’s inherently tied to MAMMA MIA: it’s the way you feel after a pool party, when you’re splayed all over the den with your friends, sunsoaked and sleepy, and your legs are slowly but surely being eaten by mosquitos. There’s a warmth to the film, an immediate comfort from just the opening titles, that can’t be put into words. MAMMA MIA! HERE WE GO AGAIN has a lot to live up to. How can you top a film after 10 YEARS of hype? You don’t! HERE WE GO AGAIN has no intention of topping its predecessor because how can you? It’s not often that the forces of filmmaking come together to create something like MAMMA MIA!. HERE WE GO AGAIN just wants to have some FUN. It’s full of plot holes and cliches but why on earth are you watching MAMMA MIA! HERE WE GO AGAIN for a consistent plot and inventive storytelling techniques?

MAMMA MIA! HERE WE GO AGAIN takes us back to the saturated Isle of Kalokairi that we know and love and tells two stories: one of Sophie (Amanda Seyfried), desperate to properly honor her mother’s memory, and the other of a young Donna (oh my god, Lily James) and how she got to the Greek island. When you take a second to think about it, there’s not really much of a plot here. We already know Donna’s story—it’s literally the opening number of MAMMA MIA! (2008). Sophie’s story is just a quick catch up to see where our faves are five years later and DAMN if I haven’t been wondering! Thanks for the update! The real draw of MAMMA MIA! isn’t the plot, it’s watching esteemed actors lip sync ABBA and wear skin-tight lamé costumes, and don’t you worry, there’s plenty of it to go around.

Mamma Mia dance

My moms!

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It’s so damn fun. It’s SO damn fun. It’s light and airy and I wasn’t thinking about anything for the entire two-hour run time. Usually during movies a few stray anxieties creep into my brain, pulling me away for a moment or two but with MAMMA MIA: HERE WE GO AGAIN, my thoughts went something like this

  • How does Lily James look like that?
  • God I love my friends so much.
  • Remember in 9th grade when Rachel and I changed the lyrics to “Lay All Your Love On Me” for a class election?
  • Do I miss high school right now?
  • How is Lily James like this.
  • Why is Harry’s jacket so damn small? Is it a symbol of how he’s outgrown his past life as a “headbanger” and matured into a banker? Did the costumer mismeasure? Why isn’t this ever addressed? (I’ve attached a photo and I’d love some thoughts)
  • God I wish Bill Skarsgård was young Stellan Skarsgård instead.
  • I would die for Lily James.
  • I would die for everyone on my screen right now.
  • Alright I kinda miss Meryl.
  • CHER.
  • I love my mom.
  • I love my friends.
  • I love Colin Firth.

That’s the beauty of it. What else is there to think about when Christine Baranski is wearing a billowing caftan while belting out ‘70s Europop and sipping wine? In IMAX?? This is more than I could ever ask for: it’s a respite from the neverending anxieties of modern life featuring characters I already know and love, it’s pure and simple and full of beautiful scenery and the only worry I have is what song they gave Pierce Brosnan to moan through. It’s like summer: it’s safe and warm and pleasantly endless.

Mamma Mia Henry

You can kind of tell here but that jacket goes to his mid-back and the sleeves don’t meet his wrists. Why.

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The final 30-45 minutes really pack a punch: Colin Firth, Stellan Skarsgård, and Dominic Cooper all finally make their way to Greece. This is when you’re like oh, HERE WE GO AGAIN. Stellan and Colin Firth are doing the Titanic thing on a boat, “Dancing Queen” is playing, Grecians are dancing—it’s paradise, it’s MAMMA motherfucking MIA 2. How can it get better than this? Oh, just mother. Fucking. CHER. Holy shit. Remember when Thor finally arrives in Wakanda and yells “BRING ME THANOS?” in INFINITY WAR? This was like that except Cher was in stilettos. The audience lost their shit. People were crying. She sang “Fernando” to Andy Garcia. It felt like every second of the 10 years since I first saw MAMMA MIA! (2008) were building up to this moment. It was, by definition, iconic.

As fun and carefree as HERE WE GO AGAIN can be, at its core it’s a celebration of loss. As hinted at in the trailers, Meryl is dead, and the reason our favorite characters are back together is to celebrate her memory. This union of joy and sorrow finds its balance as we watch Sophie and young Donna walk down the aisle of the same church, 25 years apart, to baptize their babies. Young Donna is alone, with just her two best friends to support her, while Sophie is surrounded by her massive, loving family. But the bond they share is an absence of one presence. For Donna, it’s the man she loves. For Sophie, it’s her mother. As Sophie serenades her son between hugs from family and friends, she looks up and sees the overall-clad spirit of her mom, Meryl as Donna, exactly as she was 10 years ago. The absence of Meryl is so heavily felt throughout the entire film that the emotional weight of this moment is indescribable. The only comparable moment in film I can think of is in PHANTOM THREAD when a bedridden Reynolds sees his mother in the corner of the room, wearing the wedding dress he made for her. But it’s Meryl Streep. And she’s singing ABBA. With one look, these characters who we’ve known and loved for a DECADE remind us why we came back to Greece, and why we were there in the first place.

Mamma Mia Meryl

I fully cried while searching for this image

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When I was young I spent so much of my time seeking deeper meaning in every film I watched. I was completely consumed with a need to understand the greater depth of art and media. But finding catharsis in film, as in any artform, isn’t limited to the complexity or nuance of the piece. MAMMA MIA!: HERE WE GO AGAIN isn’t perfect. But who cares? I certainly don’t. For the first time in years I felt my cheeks aching because I was smiling so hard. The girl sitting next to me was weeping for the last 20 minutes straight and so was I. It takes something really special to bring that level of unadulterated joy to so many people, and to see groups of women of every age singing their way out of the theater was worth every penny I spent on my ticket. Like its predecessor, MAMMA MIA! HERE WE GO AGAIN is a triumph of light and love and togetherness. And the inevitable late summer four-hour MAMMA MIA! marathons are going to be fucking amazing.

Aya Lehman acts as a guest contributor for Crossfader so she can talk about rom coms in a public forum. Her passions include reading the writers of CRIMINAL MINDS for filth, the politics of the color pink, and Steve from STRANGER THINGS.

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