‘Thank You For the Music[al]’: a reflection on ‘Mamma Mia!’
Maggie Clark | Wednesday, April 13, 2022
Last week, many tri-campus community students (including me) got the chance to revisit a timeless tale of love, family and, most importantly, ABBA. As part of their SunTostal programming, SUB offered a screening of the beloved “Mamma Mia!.” While I am sure many students watched the movie on this special night, I watched it with some of my section in my dorm as part of a spa night before our formal. I think the evident prevalence of “Mamma Mia!” this week on campus offers the perfect opportunity for me to gush about what has become one of my favorite movies.
One of the reasons I love “Mamma Mia!” is, obviously, the music. I think it is incredible that the writers of the musical managed to take seemingly unrelated ABBA songs and make them into a sensical story. On top of that, the music is not only good but also extremely fun. The movie practically begs viewers to sing or dance along with it, making it more of an experience than a film alone.
I also think that the popularity of “Mamma Mia!” in general is due to what I consider its second best quality: setting. Even though I have never physically been to a quaint, Grecian hotel, I feel like I am transported to one every time I watch “Mamma Mia!.” The opening scene of the waves crashing into the shore as Sophie sings “I Have a Dream” acts as a portal to this place, and the ending reception scene with “Take a Chance on Me” leaves viewers with the felicity of having attended an energetic island wedding.
Unlike a lot of other musicals, the fact that the film’s music comes from ABBA and not from someone like Stephen Sondheim gives it an almost universal appeal. For example, the collective gasp/scream that sounded when “Dancing Queen” played at my formal was one of the moments in which I felt true unity with the Notre Dame community. I believe that “Mamma Mia!” is one of the reasons that ABBA remains so popular with my generation, despite the fact that the band originally rose to fame half a century ago.
Perhaps the most important aspect of “Mamma Mia!” is this universality. In moments like the one at my formal, the movie acts as a source of unity. I do not think I have ever met anyone who cannot find some appealing aspect of the movie. Because of this appeal, I cannot remember a sleepover at home, a field day at my all girls private school or a movie night in my dorm during which “Mamma Mia!” was not a likely option for a film to watch.
Even though the film contains sentimental elements — Sophie trying to find her father, Donna’s contemplation of her love life, the value of friendship in Donna and the Dynamos and the mother-daughter relationship between Donna and Sophie — it is also comedic in those very same areas. Because of this, I think there is something for any audience member of “Mamma Mia!,” and that it is one of those movies that you should watch at least once. After that, I can certainly say that even if you do not watch it again, it will never truly “[slip] through your fingers.”