Friday, June 5, 2009

Wacky Wiccans

Movie: Mamma Mia (2008)
Director: Phyllida Lloyd

If Jean Francois Lyotard was right in asserting that the 'grand narratives' of history - reason, progress, socialism - are finished, and semiotics has dissolved into purely libidinal 'energetics', then the nostalgic, uninvolving kitsch of Mamma Mia is a case in point.

The movie confirms what pseuds like me have long known - that ABBA have now truly crossed over from the modern to the postmodern.

More accurately Mamma Mia is unintentionally postmodern, since it's the structure rather than the 'work' which fascinates. The movie cobbles together its creaky 'narrative' by kookily recontextualizing ABBA's legendary oeuvre.

Describing a universe parallel to the one described in the group's deceptively complex late-70s divorce epics, the main plot - a bride-to-be unsure which of her mother's former lovers is her real father - would not long ago have been considered taboo.

But it's been morphed here into a wonky relativist fable acceptable to a knowing, postmodern audience. Wacky wiccans will lap up its farcical female bonding while the rest of us gape at the barf-inducing romance and baffling homoerotic twists.

The movie delights in presenting established stars waaay out of their comfort zone. Pierce Brosnan is brilliantly wooden, Colin Firth perplexingly epicene. You've never seen Meryl Streep like this before - she is truly sensational.

Mamma Mia manages to have its cake and eat it not only by simultaneously celebrating and taking the piss out of cheesy Hollywood musicals, but by doing so both consciously and unconsciously.

True to the postmodern creed, the movie offers no answers, denies the existence of absolute truths and leads the viewer toward a vaguely relativistic concept of 'tolerance'.

For the most part it's corny, embarrassing, tasteless trash.

And I loved every minute of it.

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