Sunday, October 26, 2008

Thank you for the music

There isn't much music that can truly be described as "evergreen", but if anyone deserves the appellation, ABBA does. ABBA may be a guilty pleasure to listen to now, but their brand of disco was mostly fun and baggage free, and their simple tunes and catchy beats give them extra, if unintended, longevity at the KTV lounge.

ABBA music is easy for anyone to identify with, because underneath all the fluff it captures a full range of emotions that are part and parcel of people's experiences through the many different levels of relationships they have with one another. And Mamma Mia proves that ABBA music really has something for everyone.

Mamma Mia (a.k.a. "My Big Fat Greek ABBA Wedding") essentially depicts a reunion of old friends who have not seen each other for the last 20 years. It is the wedding that brings them back together, and it becomes an opportunity to confront the secrets and issues that drove them apart all those long years ago.

Apart from exploring estranged relationships, the movie also celebrates the rock-solid friendships that have stood the test of time. It is a kind of tightness that the many years of separation cannot wear away. Old friends picking up where they had left off, each having grown in experience doing different things, yet when coming together it's like no time at all between them.

60 is indeed the new 20. The energy output of the main cast fronted by Streep and Brosnan in their dance, and all the running around they do show the great shape they're in. A generation or so ago, 60 was sagely and settled, yet these guys are still chasing dreams and are still looking for "the one". Yay for youth and life even as we grey!

As for the dance sequences, although mass dance plays a big part it isn't quite as Bollywood as some people might have described. If anything, it is both a tribute to and a parody of the Bollywood style in the simplicity of the movements and its occasional silliness (check out the "Lay all your love on me" sequence).

And through it all, ABBA music supports the action. There are a few liberties taken with the lyrics to fit the scene (even then the "Winner takes it all" sequence didn't quite make sense), but generally ABBA writes in a very conversational style such that the songs blend in easily with the spoken script. And yet, the lyrics convey a powerful emotive force, from being young and in love, to being heartbroken, to wisps of nostalgia in watching a child grow up and away.

I suppose for me, Mamma Mia gives me a little hope as I age too. I've never done anything wild and crazy, never done anything I might regret, never been a rebel and explored my own hopes and dreams (can't even remember what they were any more), but with an ABBA anthem in my 'pod and a reasonably healthy bod, I have been assured that it is never too late.

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