Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again poster
Stephanie Mardesich, founded the LA Harbor International Film Festival (LAHIFF)  in 2003. She is the director/programmer for LAHIFF and also freelance journalist and public relations consultant. She is descendant of European immigrants to America in the early 19th century.
She has lived and worked in the UK and travels there frequently.

She recently co-produced a new oral history project ‘Stories Of Los Angeles Harbor Area: For Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow’. Segments can be viewed on Youtube and Facebook every ‘Throwback Thursday’.

It’s a joy to host Stephanie’s review on the blog. I can’t wait to watch this movie!

Mamma Mia – Here We Go Again!

(U.S.A., 2018, Universal Pictures, 104 min.; Dir., Ol Parker)

Dance don’t walk to Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again for an enchanting cinematic experience. It’s the perfect summer movie for the armchair traveler and respite on a hot day or evening.

You’ll laugh out loud, shed a tear or more – from sentimental joy, not despair – revel in splendid locations and maybe sing along to the familiar Abba tunes adapted to tell the continuing saga of ‘Sophie’ (Amanda Seyfried) whose free-spirited American ‘mitera’ (Greek for mother) the late Donna took off on her own special odyssey, post grad from Oxford, England ending up in Greece. When we last saw Sophie she was engaged to ‘Sky’ (Dominic Cooper) and though the wedding was deferred, they are still together (married?) albeit temporarily separated while Sophie rebuilds Donna’s humble home as a glamorous spa hotel, and Sky is in USA learning hospitality trade. There’s some tension between them to be resolved.

The current cinematic journey begins with insouciant yet sincere young Donna who as she makes her way through Europe, encounters three decidedly different men in a short time. She has romantic relationships with each at a time when one could be more frivolous and get away with it. Or did she, considering she ends up ‘with child’ and bravely determined raises her little girl on a remote Greek isle (the movie was actually filmed on the island of Vis off the Dalmatian coast in Croatia, the land of this writer’s ancestors).

Not to entirely give away the clever plot we meet all the main characters featured in Mamma Mia!, when Donna & The Dynamos were a hip trio singing and dancing in some wild outfits. Cross cutting from their early younger selves, to older versions are: Lily James (beguiling as young Donna and briefly Meryl Streep as original), Jessica Keenan Wynn* /Christine Baranski (Tanya), Alexa Davies/Julie Walters (Rosie), Jeremy Irvine/Pierce Brosnan (Sam), Josh Dylan /Stellan Skarsgard (Bill), Hugh Skinner /Colin Firth (Harry), and more spot on performers in the masterfully edited film going back in forth at terpsichorean pace that takes one spinning through time skipping across the screen with the flamboyant costumes, alluring seaside locale, and glorious landscape.

To its praise the film succeeds where LaLa Land failed in its fantasy moments based in someone’s reality bursting into spontaneous song. These actors actually sing well and in key. Cleverly propelling the story through the Abba lyrics is brilliant, and feels oddly authentic like the sound stage musicals of yore when one believed the moment Rita Hayworth or Doris Day might burst into song in the middle of a romantic or comic moment.

As my film-going companion queried the plot choice about Donna’s premature demise was sad, however it created the emotional arc that builds the story, like a prequel and sequel combined. From my POV, there could have been even more intrinsic references like Donna’s mum (Cher as ‘Ruby’), and her benefactor café owner Sofia, who Sophie apparently named for, the surrogate grandmother being called ‘Yiayia’ (grandmother in the Greek nomenclature).

More cuisine and imbibing would be very much in the Greek tradition, with a glass, or plate broken to add to the spirited atmosphere. Get out your cookbook, or traverse the internet find some recipes and home grown grapevines and make dolmades (stuffed vine leaves), or other inspired dishes, sip some Ouzo and enjoy. Opa!

*JKW is 5th generation of the thespian Wynn family and clearly carries on that tradition with true talent.

Out in UK cinemas, now.

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