Saturday, January 16, 2010

Mamma Mia

I'm watching Mamma Mia on HBO, and while I like it, I've got some issues with it.  Spoilers follow if you're not interesting in knowing any details.

First off, there are two women in the story who have made it clear that they're not interested in getting married: Donna and Rosie.  Donna, the main character and single mother of 20-year-old Sophie, runs a taverna on her own.  She slept with three different men around the same time, and therefore has no idea which of the three men is the father of Sophie; when she got pregnant, she was disowned.  I actually appreciate this part of the story: we don't judge Donna for her sexual past, or even the lack of father for Sophie, and because we identify with Donna, we're not sympathetic to her mother, who disowned her.

And so the rest of the movie doesn't necessarily work too well (or, I should say, the story, since the movie is an adaption of the musical).  You've got a mother raising her daughter, no father in the picture, and the mother (until this point, I suppose) has managed to stay afloat financially.  So even if it makes sense for Sophie to want to know who her father is, out of curiosity, I feel as if she would have started a dialogue with her mother about his identity.

And while I agree with Sophie's fiance, Sky, that she doesn't need to know her father's identity to be a complete person, or to have a "real" family, I also think his whole assertion that she's having the wedding just to find her father is unfair.  So it's even more annoying that once Sophie learns the "identity" of her father, she calls off the wedding.  While on the one hand, I read it as a 20-year-old getting too caught up in the romantic ideal of marriage, on the other, I think a lot of people see it as the fickle nature of a woman who doesn't know what she wants.

And meanwhile, Donna, who has been FINE on her own until the arrival of her three ex-lovers, suddenly isn't fine and very unconvincingly talks about how she's TOTALLY happy being independent.  Again, on one hand, we can see this as her never getting over Sam, and then it makes more sense why she so quickly agrees to marry him.  But on the other hand, the character undermines the credibility of women who actually ARE fine being single, or being financially independent.

And then there's Rosie, one of Donna's friends who is perfectly happy being a lone wolf.  After a day of meeting Bill, one of Sophie's fathers, she's totally smitten, even though he seems completely, utterly uninterested (seriously; I was watching, thinking, "Oh my god, she's singing to him about how she likes him and he's going to reject her, isn't he!").  It sort of reinforces the subtle idea that women who say they're happy being alone really AREN'T.

I do like this movie.  It's silly.  And it's sexual (the scene where Rosie and Tanya ask Donna if she's getting any, and she uses a drill to euphemize slays me).  And it has Meryl Streep, Pierce Brosnan (first older man crush back from his Bond days, siiiiiigh), and Colin Firth in it.  Triple swoon.  But the messages are really ... problematic and weird.

EDIT: Also, Julie Walters in this movie is fucking hilarious.  I keep remembering that she also plays Mrs. Weasley, so it's extra ridiculous to hear her talk about donkey testicles and then have her sing "Take a Chance On Me."

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