Having seen "Mama Mia!: Here We Go Again" five times now, I can say with absolute certainty that it is more than just hype and Swedish pop ballads. Yes, I am the girl who hasn’t been able to shut up about its release since April, and yes, I have had a soft spot for ABBA since I discovered their gaudy angst-packed music videos in middle school, but this film goes far beyond that.
Naturally, I have a lot of surface level praise to give. Christine Baranski and Julie Walters in “Angel Eyes” forced me to reevaluate everything I thought I knew about love and proved that when we put women over 60 on the screen in roles more dimensional than “old,” they will steal the show. Amanda Seyfried is still perfect and now we know Lily James is, too. The “Waterloo” number was the most impressive and visually pleasing media content my brain has ever processed.
Admittedly, it has flaws. Donna shames herself for her active sex life, the cast lacks in diversity, and in writing a second movie that is equal parts prequel, sequel and a compilation of ABBA’s greatest hits, plot holes were inevitable. Despite that, the film holds an important message.
Donna Sheridan (Lily James) is a female protagonist in a coming of age story that not only passes the Bechdel test, but has a female at the center of nearly every scene. Donna sets out on her own, gets help from her girls through the rough patches and eventually raises a daughter set on realizing the dream that her mother did not live to see.
The film is a study in girl power, from the strength of an individual women, to the power and consistency of over twenty-five years of female friendship, to the magic of the relationship between mother and daughter. From start to finish "Mamma Mia!: Here We Go Again", portrays women supporting each other, making sacrifices for each other, choosing love over bitterness, pursuing what they want and being strong.
Tanya emphasizes that they should be “bolstering” each other throughout the film, which is her highbrow way of saying “girls support girls” and the newest addition to my personal lexicon. And bolster they do. The women pull through for each other time and time again.
Rosie does not pursue Bill because and stays on the island to make Donna feel better, despite the fact that Bill is attractive and has a boat, and if that does not prove her undying loyalty to her friend, I don’t know what does. Sophie stays so loyal to her mother’s memory that she puts her own relationship on the line. Even the old Greek woman who doesn’t get a name gets a story line wherein she takes Donna under her wing, helping her with housing, men and eventually childbirth.
This is perhaps what I envy most about the "Mamma Mia" world. Not the breathtaking views of Greece or the easy access to the Mediterranean. Not the ability to burst into a choreographed ABBA musical number at any moment without the boy I like so much as blinking an eye. But a world wherein bolstering is everywhere, not just in words, but in actions. My greatest takeaway from "Mamma Mia!: Here We Go Again" was not that if I cannot think of an ABBA song for any situation I am not thinking hard enough, but rather that a world of bolstering is a world I want to live in. Go forth and bolster.
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