Are you looking for an antidote to the Irish summer, something to dispel the gloom and bring a little fantasy sunshine into your life? Look no further than this one, my friend – a movie that’ll surely ramp up the feel good meter and have you Googling the Ryanair site in search of cheap flights to the Greek isles. It’s the adaptation of blockbuster stage musical seen by more than 30 million people in 170 cities and eight different languages about a bride, her mum and three possible dads.
Meryl Streep and Pierce Brosnan lead an all-star cast in a story set around “the romantic possibilities of what can happen on one magical Greek island when love is in the air and music and dancing abound.” It is 1999 on the Greek island of Kalokairi at the remote Mediterranean hotel Villa Donna, run by Donna (Streep), daughter Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) and Sophie’s fiancé Sky (Dominic Cooper). Just in time for her upcoming marriage, Sophie nervously posts three wedding invitations to three different men, any of whom she believes may be her father.
From three cities across the globe, three men set off to return to the island – and the woman – that had enchanted each of them 20 years earlier: Sam Carmichael (Brosnan), adventurer Bill Anderson (Stellan Skarsgård) and banker Harry Bright (Colin Firth).
Without telling her mother, Sophie has invited all three to her wedding, believing that after she spends time with them, she will at last know who her real father is. Add into the mix some old friends of Donna’s – wisecracker Rosie (Julie Walters) and wealthy multiple divorcée Tanya (Christine Baranski).
To the background of the irresistible Abba soundtrack, Donna confronts her past and the fact that she is uncertain which of the three men is actually Sophie’s father. Mamma Mia! The story of the stage play is now theatre history having become a global entertainment phenomenon. There have been 20 productions of Mamma Mia! and currently nine are generating more than €8 million a week in ticket sales.
More than 30 million people have seen the show worldwide. More than 17,000 people see the show around the world every night, and Mamma Mia! has already grossed more than $2 billion at the theatrical box office. The show has premiered in more cities worldwide faster than any other musical in history; it has opened in more than 170 major cities since the first production in London almost a decade ago. With the Abba band members originally agreeing to become part of the stage show only on the basis that it would not be a tribute to their hugely popular music career, the film sketches a story of mistaken identity, romantic sunsets and, everywhere, those songs that still set the feet tapping all these years later. Voulez-vous, SOS, Does Your Mother Know? The Winner Takes It All, and, most appropriately, Take A Chance On Me are stitched into the plot fabric with an easy elegance that pushes the story forward against a backdrop that’ll have millions heading for Greece before September comes around.
The result is a heart-warming story about two generations of women, young love and love the second time around…not to mention friendship, finding one’s true identity and wish fulfilment. The producers succeed in making a film with a universal resonance that crosses age, gender and national boundaries. Just as ABBA’s timeless music and lyrics still do. The Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus songs are performed with gusto by Skarsgard, Brosnan and Firth who deliver their musical lines with style and panache. And Streep herself – the woman who bewitched our deal Gaybo so? Suffice to say she does amazingly well with the material – particularly her rendetions of Slipping Through My Fingers and The Winner Takes It All. If Catherine Zeta Jones can get an Oscar for her performance in Chicago, Streep surely deserves a nod for this one.