Thursday, August 07, 2008

Thunder and Lightning

Thunder and Lightning (1977) seems like a half-hearted Hollywood effort to jump on the 1970s-decade films-about-the-South band wagon. Produced by Roger Corman, directed by Corey Allen (mainly a director of television episodes), it tries to make David Carradine into a Southern ring-tailed roarer in the vein of Burt Reynolds' Gator McCluskey. The action is intense but without much excitement, the hijinks are forced and unsurprising, the story-line is shallow and punctuated with seemingly endless dune buggy races and car chases. There's a fight in what appears to be a hog trough. There's a protracted scene where Carradine and his girlfriend throw cartons of soft drinks from the back of a delivery truck. There's plenty of moonshine and a range of bucolic good-ol'-boy types along with a few Mafioso enforcers trying to conduct a hit on a golf course thrown in for good measure.

The basic plot concerns moonshiners in the Florida swamps. There are the "good" moonshiners who make high-quality shine and sell it to the locals, and there are "bad" moonshiners who use radiators and car batteries to make tainted shine which they force local vendors to buy. The bad moonshiners spend a lot of time colluding with the mob up North and with the local senator, and with breaking down the stills of the good moonshiners whom they try to put out of business.

Carradine plays Harley Thomas, the hero, who delivers whiskey made by the good moonshiners. His girlfriend is the smoothly coiffed Nancy Sue Hunnicutt (Kate Jackson), whose father heads up the local bad moonshine operation. Harley is the fool killer in this film. He drives fast and furiously, always outwits the bad guys, speaks with the same accent he used in the Kung Fu television series. Kate Jackson at least manages a mild accent. We see a possum in one scene and an alligator in another. In one faintly amusing scene Harley meets Nancy at a church service where the reverend delivers his sermon while wrestling an alligator. Other than them critters, there's nothing authentic or mildly stimulating in this dull and bland production.

The South in Thunder and Lightning is dirt roads, hicks, illegal whiskey, trucks, cars, dune buggies, grizzled old men, dimwits, fistfights, corrupt politicos and businessmen, swamps, and rusty radiators.

CSNY: Déjà Vu

CSNY: Déjà Vu (2008) is Neil Young's documentary about his 2006 tour with Crosby, Stills, and Nash. During that tour the band played many of the songs from Young's Living with War album—an album that is virulently opposed to the ongoing war in Iraq. Thus we have a film that is about a rock band and also about a war protest. It examines varying crowd reactions to the political agenda of the tour. It also focuses on the aging band members, all of whom are in their 60s (only Stills seems subdued by age—he speaks and sings with a slur that perhaps reflects damage from drugs and alcohol abuse). The issues here include the nation's response to the war in Iraq, the impact a rock band can have on political issues, whether the current political climate is analogous to the 1960s and the Vietnam War. Neil Young correctly observes during the film that the absence of a draft has prevented widespread protests among America's youth because they do not feel at risk. Another question the film considers is whether CSNY can still play together, whether they can play well.

Undoubtedly, CSNY: Déjà Vu seeks to portray the band in a positive light, yet there is a surprising balance here. We see the band members in all their aged glory, especially Stephen Stills. We listen to their ragged playing early in the tour. We are shown varying crowd reactions to their music: the concert in Atlanta provokes walkouts from audience members unhappy with the song "Let's Impeach the President." For the most part the walk-outs were middle-aged adults, and it's difficult to know how representative they were of the audience as a whole. An interview with libertarian radio talk-show host Neal Boortz is interesting—Boortz doesn't condemn the band's tour appearance in Atlanta or its subject matter--he sees it as a matter of free speech, though he notes that the band has to be prepared to deal with the consequences of their attitudes.

One way the film achieves whatever measure of balance it has is the use of ABC news correspondent Michael Cerre as an "embedded" participant in the tour. Cerre spent two tours of duty as an embedded reporter in the Iraq war prior to the CSNY tour, and returned to Iraq after the documentary was made. He wrote and narrates much of the film, offering his own perspectives, which are frequently distinctive from those of the band members. Young apparently asked Cerre to compile news clips and footage from the war for the film. It is Cerre who brings into the film interviews with disgruntled fans and with commentators such as Neal Boortz. He thereby helps the film avoid hagiography, though there are undeniably a few hagiographic elements.

What's most interesting about the film is how it shows the continuing commitment of the band to an anti-war point of view and to music as a form of communication after more than forty years. By the end of the tour, the band is performing better than it has performed in years. One of the band members comments that the tour has enabled the group to rediscover itself.

Neil Young directed this film under the moniker of Bernard Shakey, a name he has used in other directing efforts. The only other Neil Young film I have seen is the film version of his album Greendale (2004). Although that film had its interesting moments, it was more a series of loosely conceived rock videos, based on the album, than a coherent film. In CSNY: Déjà Vu there are moments of deeply felt emotion, of raw political anger, and of transcendence. The film never argues that the band has any effect on the opinions of its audience or on US participation in the Iraqi conflict itself. What it does argue for is the character and persistence of the band, and its commitment to peace and good music.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Fried Green Tomatoes

Fried Green Tomatoes (1991) portrays a small town in the rural South of the 1920s and 1930s that tolerates and supports a relationship between two women whom today we would describe as lesbians. That statement needs scrutiny: what would such a community know of a lesbian relationship, which would take place behind closed doors? Would it necessarily be seen as unusual, by prevailing standards of the day? Or would it simply be seen as a matter of two unmarried women living and working together for the sake of convenience, like a Boston marriage? Because no one names their relationship, no one has to react or pass judgment.

At any rate, the two women at the center of this film, and their family, tolerate individuality and eccentricity. They are not what the film presents as the prevailing Southern norm. The norm is Ruth Jamison's abusive husband. The norm is the Klan, which attacks the Whistle Stop Café for its too tolerant attitude towards a black employee. But mostly, it seems, the community simply ignores or doesn't think about or doesn't understand Idgie and Ruth's private life. The town simply accepts them. When Idgie is put on trial for killing Ruth's husband, Ruth is asked why she left her husband to go live with Idgie: she answers that Idgie "is the best friend I've ever had. I love her." The townspeople see the relationship as a friendship, and the film portrays it that way, although there is enough information to allow us to infer a deeper bond.

Like To Kill a Mockingbird (1962), Intruder in the Dust (1949), and other films, Fried Green Tomatoes examines the South through characters and situations that are exceptional rather than representative. Yet it argues that exceptions such as Ruth and Idgie are part of the community because of a fundamental tolerance for variation and eccentricity. The South is, after all, according to a fundamental stereotype, full of eccentrics and individuals. Shouldn't it be accepting of them? As the film makes clear, such tolerance extends within but not across racial boundaries.

The film has a double-plot structure. A modern housewife named Evelyn Couch (Kathy Bates) is unhappy with her marriage and her life in general and is suffering a personal crisis. She meets an elderly woman living in a nursing home named Ninny Threadgoode (Jessica Tandy) who tells her stories from her earlier days in a nearby town called Whistle Stop. These stories mainly concern Idgie and Ruth. They inspire Evelyn to get her life in order, to be more assertive, and to stand up to her husband. I found the Evelyn Couch scenes deadly dull and uninteresting. Kathy Bates overplays her character and is more a cartoon than a realistic figure. The Ruth and Idgie story is far more interesting. Evelyn's life provides a frame that enables Ruth and Idgie's story to be told (a frame similar to what we find in Princess Bride, 1987, and Edward Scissorhands, 1990).

This film is often grouped pejoratively with other films about Southern women such as Steel Magnolias (1989). The grouping isn't accurate—Fried Green Tomatoes is a better film primarily because of the writing, the narrative coherence, the characters, and the actors. Mary Stuart Masterson (Idgie) and Mary-Louise Parker (Julie) are excellent in their roles, though there is, admittedly, a Hallmark Hallof Fame sheen to both of them. As much as it is a kind of fairy tale about an idyllic Southern past, Fried Green Tomatoes is not (unlike Steel Magnolias) a conglomeration of stereotypes and parodies. It is a portrait of a close and deep friendship and the community around it. Interestingly, both films use the death of a main character as a dramatic focus. Julie's death seems a way by which the film evades long-term issues about her relationship with Idgie.

Fried Green Tomatoes is also, like many Southern films, a nostalgic excursion, told from a future vantage point in time, looking back towards a past that some might prefer to the present day. In the old days, the film implies, Ninny would not have been left in a nursing home. Friends and relatives would have taken Ninny in, as Evelyn seems ready to do at the end of the film. The past is clearly past—times have changed. This is an underlying premise of Ninny's stories about the old days in Whistle Stop. The café closes, and Whistle Stop withers away after the train no longer stops there. This signifies the passage of the old order.

Ironically, the train is the source of the town's economic life, yet it is also a threat from the beginning. Idgie's brother Buddy is killed in an early scene when a train kills him after his shoe becomes stuck between the tracks.

Fried Green Tomatoes depends on notions of Southern local color and quaintness for much of its secondary interest. It is about a former time and place, an enclave of isolation from modernity and all of its inhospitable elements.

The Dark Knight

The Dark Knight (2008) is the best of the Batman films and maybe the best film in general based on a comic book hero. Dark, brooding, and suffused with repressed energy that breaks out at predictable and unpredictable moments, the film is exciting and disturbing. It is disturbing in its refusal to adopt pure moral positions and in its insistence on portraying a world where good and evil are confusingly and increasingly intertwined, where truth and fiction cancel one another out.

The Dark Knight is clearly a post-September 11 statement. The Joker in this film is the agent of chaos, anarchy. He repeatedly insists that he has only one purpose—to cause chaos. He does that effectively. His misdeeds increase and multiply. A corps of supporters and assistants out there in Gotham City aid him in his evil doings, and as the film progresses the crises he causes deepen and darken. There is a moment in the film when, after things at last seemed under control, all hell breaks loose, and we see for an instant a panic-stricken look on Commissioner Gordon's face. All the institutions of government are failing, breaking down. His cold rational commitment to law and order is challenged to an extreme he has never experienced. This moment reminded me, emotionally, of that day when the towers fell in New York, when as things seem to have descended to a profound nadir they kept getting even worse. These moments in the film were actually frightening.

Another post 9-11 reference comes in a surveillance system that Batman's colleague Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman) develops to allow him to listen in on the words and doings of every inhabitant in Gotham. The system, which exploits cell phone networks, is so insidious that Fox vows to resign when he finishes designing it. This is, of course, an implied reference to the Homeland Security Act of the Bush administration. It is also a sign of how Batman's obsession with defeating the Joker has led him to compromise fundamental principles.

The film ends with an agreement between Commissioner Gordon and Batman that the citizens of Gotham need to be protected from the truth of what happened to the young district attorney who had vowed to purge crime from the streets of the city. The truth would be too dark, Batman insists, and the citizens need someone to believe in, as well as someone to hold up as a villain. This agreement reminded me of Conrad's Heart of Darkness, where Marlow protects Kurtz's Intended from the truth of how he died by telling her that his dying words were her name. (There is a Kurtz-like character in the film who is wholly corrupted by how the Joker preys on his pride and ambition). It reminded me as well of Freud's observation in Civilization and its Discontents that civilization is a network of laws and restraints that protect humanity from its essential savagery. Ironically, a certain truth is withheld from Batman at a crucial moment in the film.

Heath Ledger is excellent as the Joker. One can imagine, and be tempted to believe, that the power of the character he was playing lured him into madness and drug abuse, leading to his death from an overdose of prescription medicine. I don't believe that, but whatever demons he may have been wrestling with energize his performance. One of the most disturbing aspects of the film is how the Joker keeps insisting to Batman, to the new district attorney, and to others that they all have much in common, that they all are alike. The film insists on a fundamental moral ambiguity in all human beings, a state of perpetual compromise.

As the Joker in the 1983 film Batman Jack Nicholson improvised on the role played by Caesar Romero in the 1960s Batman television series. Nicholson was excellent, but his character was never more than a comic book parody. Ledger gives the Joker depth and three-dimensionality without ever really hinting at the events that made the Joker what he became. In his ability to prey on the deepest psychological vulnerabilities of his opponents and victims, Ledger's Joker is more the descendent of Hannibal Lecter than of any character in the comic book series.

The Dark Knight is not perfect, by any means. For me, the sudden emergence late in the film of a second arch-villain is a weakness and a flaw. Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne/Batman is effective, but he growl too often when in costume. His flickering romance with Rachel Dawes (Maggie Gyllenhaal) is confusing and frustrating. It is also not a film with a happy ending—this is not a weakness.

The Dark Knight offers some wonderful visually operatic moments. Better than any of its predecessors (and some of them were successful on their own terms), it illuminates and inhabits and magnifies the mythology of the hero it brings to life. Director Christopher Nolan, both in this film and its predecessor Batman Begins (2005), brings true vision and power to his subject.

Macon County Line

Macon County Line (1974) was a primary entry in a genre of films that emphasized the South as a place of violence, vigilante justice, and hostility to people from outside the region. In such films as Two Thousand Maniacs (1964) and 2001 Maniacs (2005) and in such more reputable films as Easy Rider (1969) and Deliverance (1972) down-home Southerners were portrayed as depraved and vicious.

In Macon County Line two hipsters on their way to enlist in the army pick up a Southern girl on her way to Dallas. The hipsters—college-age boys—the girl is 20—have little money. Their car breaks down in a small town that is apparently Macon, Georgia. While it is being repaired, they meet the local deputy sheriff, Reed Morgan (Max Baer), who is hostile but who after some intimidation lets them go their way. Later, their car breaks down again—ironically—just in front of Deputy Morgan's house. His wife has just been raped and murdered by two hoodlums. When Deputy Morgan discovers the crime and sees the car, he assumes the boys and their female friend committed the crime. With his ten-year-old son in tow, he chases them down. Murders ensue.

Though this is a poorly made low-grade film, Deputy Morgan is not as simple as one would think. He wears a Confederate flag shoulder patch on his uniform. He is pretty much a product of his times. He loves his wife and is kind to her. He buys an expensive gun (a 12-gauge shotgun) for his son, Luke, whom he loves. He imagines giving the shotgun to his son and then going hunting with him. When his son explains that he would rather play baseball with friends, Deputy Morgan finally agrees to delay their hunting trip until later. Morgan sees his son talking to some black kids and explains that the roles of society dictate that blacks and whites do not spend time together—they live and go to school separately.

What the film seeks to demonstrate—above and beyond the fact of the South's savage violence—is that a violent heritage breeds violence. The deputy sends his son to a military school and wants to instill in him the same racial values and love of hunting that he holds. His idea of an expression of love is a 12-gauge shotgun. At the end of the film, as he hunts the people he believes have killed his wife, his son makes good on that heritage by shooting and killing the girl and one of the boys. At the beginning of the film, an ominous message on the screen suggests that the story about to be told is based on true events. At the end, a similar message informs us that Luke at the age of 29 still resides in a mental institution, where he will remain for the rest of his life. It is as if the supposedly factual basis of the film is somehow meant to justify the exploitative nature of the violence in the film.

There is little suspense or pacing in the film, which fundamentally lacks excitement. The best scene involves a romantic tryst in a watering trough.

Despite the deputy sheriff's lecture to his son about race relations, and despite the incompetence and corruption that pervades local law enforcement, the film curiously avoids any commentary on contemporary Southern affairs—it is set back in the early 1950s--1954, to be exact. We see the deputy's wife watching the Joe McCarthy hearings shortly before she is raped and murdered. McCarthy himself was a public official who like Deputy Reed ran amuck and became besotted with power. I doubt Max Baer intended this film to be a commentary on McCarthyism.

Max Baer, of course, played Jethro Bodine for a decade on the popular 1960s The Beverly Hillbillies television series.


Once (2007) is a simple, charming, enchanting film, a musical in which all the singing occurs in an entirely natural way. One of the main characters is a street singer (and a vacuum cleaner repairman) who is trying to break into the recording business. The main character, referred to in the credits merely as the "boy," is an Irishman who sings on the street for coins. He is played by Glen Hansard. One night a young woman, the "girl" (Marketa Irglova), stops and strikes up a conversation. When she learns that he repairs "Hoovers," she asks him to repair her malfunctioning vacuum cleaner, and they strike up a friendship. Early on, he suggests they spend the night together, but she refuses him. For the most part their friendship is platonic, but you sense something subterranean going on. Both of them are on the apparent down sides of relationships. The boy's girlfriend has moved to London, and he says that he will not see her again—though all the songs he writes are about her. The girl has left her husband in Czechoslovakia. She tells the boy that their relationship is over, but she never admits to not loving her husband.

In a music store, the boy discovers that the girl can play the piano and sing. They sing one of his songs together. Later he asks her to help him record some of his songs so that he can take them to London, where he has decided to go to unite with his girlfriend and to try to get a recording contract. The girl helps him negotiate a fee for use of the recording studio and helps him find other musicians to play with.

The night before he is to leave, the boy is about to say goodbye to the girl but then suggests that they spend the rest of the evening together, hanging out. She hesitates and asks him whether this might involve hanky-panky. He admits that it might. She agrees to come over to his apartment. But she never shows up. They never meet again. He does leave her a parting gift.

This is a film about what might have been. The boy and girl discover one another through their mutual love of music, through the experience of creating music together. Though many of the songs may be inspired by the boy's loss of his former girlfriend, you realize as the film progresses that the way the boy and girl perform the songs together is an expression of their developing feelings for one another. Hansard and Irglova co-wrote a number of the songs in the film. Hansard wrote several others, and Irglova's own composition "The Hill" is also featured.

This was a low-budget film with a budget of $150,000. There is nothing glitzy or slick about it. The interior shots seem to take place in real music stores and pubs and recording studios and apartments. The clothes the characters wear look like clothes they really own. The camerawork is often jittery and unbalanced. The music the boy and girl sing together sounds like what it is—improvised, poorly rehearsed but real music.

The end of Once is bittersweet, but mainly sweet. The boy and the girl proceed with their lives, without each other. This is a small film with a modest focus. It is almost like a documentary. But it is full of life and quiet passion and joy. The characters and their music make it much larger than it aspires to be. With limited resources and inexperienced actors, director John Carney has made one of the best little films I've seen in a long time.

The Astronaut Farmer

The Astronaut Farmer (2006) is one of those American fairy tales about dreams and individualism and traditional values. The basic plot: Charles Farmer, a former astronaut in training who bailed out of the program when his father committed suicide, has never abandoned his dream of travel into space. He's a farmer somewhere in the middle of nowhere Texas. He's haunted by his father's death and believes that by killing himself his father accepted failure. By repeated borrowings from the local bank and credit extensions, he's found enough money to build a rocket that he plans to ride into space. He's $600,000 in debt, the local bank is about to foreclose, his wife doesn't realize that they may lose their farm.

The film's title reflects how the film joins together the farming crisis, disappearing American individualism, and Farmer's dream of becoming an astronaut. When he tries to buy fuel for his rocket, the bank refuses to give him another credit extension and threatens foreclosure. The government sends FBI and FAA and NASA security agents of one sort or another to investigate his plans and to threaten him. His wife threatens to leave him when she discovers the full extent of his indebtedness.

Charles Farmer is crazy. Only a crazy man would try to do what he does in the film. But the film argues that there needs to be room for crazy people and their dreams in our world. It also argues in a way that is more convenient to the story than purposeful that the modern world threatens the traditional values embodied by nuclear families and farms and small towns and individual dreams. At one point Charlie talks about how he used to remember being told as a boy that he could be anything in the world that he wanted to be. He remarks that "Somewhere along the line we stopped believing we could do anything. And if we don't have our dreams, we have nothing." Sappy, yes, but true to the spirit of the film. The film does suggest that government, corporations, agencies, institutionalized groups in general conspire against individuals and individualism. At one point, Charlie launches his rocket and it malfunctions, shooting across the landscape a few feet above the ground, endangering lives and property. The film doesn't really consider whether we are supposed to be accepting of such expressions of old-time American individuality.

This film reminded me of Field of Dreams (1989) and The World's Fastest Indian (2005). In ways it seems underwritten, sketched out rather than fully developed. This is perhaps part of its fairy tale quality

Billy Bob Thornton plays astronaut farmer Charles Farmer. Billy Bob basically plays the same Billy Bob in almost every film he's appeared in (with the exception of Sling Blade, 1996). His demeanor is always calm and irritable and reserved, and only the nuances and intonations differ from role to role. This is OK with me. He's effective in most of the roles he chooses. No one else could have played Bad Santa (2003).

Although there are unexpected twists and turns here, The Astronaut Farmer basically adheres to the formula that most films follow about loners and individuals intent on realizing their dreams. It also depends on your unwillingness to pursue certain questions to their conclusions—such as how could one man with limited resources know enough to build an operating rocket from junked spare parts and $600,000. However, we are not supposed to ask such questions, and if you care too much about the answers this film is not for you.

With a supporting cast of such folks as Virginia Marsden, Bruce Dern, Tim Blake Nelson, and others, the film offers solid acting. Director Michael Polish, who also co-wrote the film, apparently believes like Charlie in making the pursuit of dreams a family effort—a number of his relatives appears in bit parts in the film.

The X-Files: I Want to Believe

For any fan of the television series, The X-Files: I Want to Believe (2008) should be a satisfying experience. More like an extended episode from the series than a feature-length film, it builds on and embellishes the themes and character relationships of the series, specifically Fox Mulder's compulsion to believe that "something is out there" and Scully's conflicted struggle between rationality and faith. It also builds on the romantic relationship between the two that was increasingly implied in the television series and made explicit only in the final episodes. There is an allusion to the child Scully had with Fox, and which she gave up. There is an allusion to Mulder's lost sister, supposedly abducted by aliens during his childhood—the primal event of his life. The most satisfying aspect of the film is the fact that the essential characters of Fox and Scully remain intact, and that we take them up some six years after we last saw them.

Aliens have nothing to do with the plot of this film, which concerns a series of grisly killings and a psychic priest with a pedophilic past who keeps leading investigators to body parts buried in a snow-covered field. (Visually, snow is everywhere in this film). The priest's supposed psychic abilities lead the FBI to summon Mulder and Scully out of retirement. One agent, an admirer of Mulder, believes the priest is truly psychic. Other FBI agents are skeptics (the main skeptic is played by Xzibit, of Pimp My Ride fame—he is effective in his role). The film follows the efforts of the agents and of Fox and Scully to discover the killer. It also follows Scully's efforts to treat a boy suffering an apparently incurable illness, and to deal with her increasingly complicated relationship with Mulder. The film occasionally bogs down, but where it succeeds it succeeds because of its fidelity to the two main characters, Mulder and Scully.

Father Joseph Crissman, played by Billy Connolly, is in many ways the center of interest. His visions and psychic insights enable the investigators to move closer to the truth. But how does he know what he knows? Scully believes he is a fraud. The FBI agents think he is connected to the killers. Mulder, of course, wants to believe him. Does Crissman speak for God, for Satan, for the killers, for himself? This is the question the film examines. When he tells Scully "Don't give up," and when he claims he didn't know what he meant when he made the statement, she suffers a crisis concerning the sick boy she is treating, her relationship with Mulder, and with her faith. Scully for me was always the most interesting character in the series. She was seriously conflicted in her role as a medical doctor, an FBI agent, as a professional woman with a private life of her own, a medical pathologist who is also a devout Catholic. The film develops these competing aspects of her character to good effect.

Given the failure of this film at the box office, this is probably the last we will see of the X-Files. I'm sorry for that.

Mama Mia

It is OK to enjoy Mama Mia (2008).

Mindless and full of the music of ABBA, a 1980s musical sensation that never quite made sense to me, Mama Mia takes the music of this Scandinavian group that sang but could not speak English and transplants it to the isles of Greece, under the auspices of an Italian title. The result comes close to being Americanized Bollywood, and I don't mean that as criticism. Mama Mia is full of music, energy, color, song, and dance. The scenery is beautiful, and it is fun to watch Meryl Streep shamelessly dance and sing and emote.

I did not see the Broadway musical that is the film's source, but the film works well enough. Donna (Meryl Streep) plays the beleaguered American proprietor of a hotel on a remote Greek isle. Twenty years before the time of the film, she had three summer affairs, one of them with a man whom she loved, two with men she turned to when the first lover abandoned her. The result was a daughter, Sophie (Amanda Seyfried). Donna doesn't know which of the men was Sophie's father. In the film's present time, Sophie is about to be married. She has always wondered who her father was, and she learns about the three affairs while reading her mother's diary. She invites each of the three men to her wedding, thinking she will instantly know her father when she sees him. Of course, things aren't that simple. All three men come to the island, Donna is thrown into crisis and consternation when she sees them, and Sophie is confused when she can't recognize her father and when her mother is upset at the arrival of three former flames.

Such is the film's thin plot. But its thinness doesn't matter. It's a sufficient skeleton to hang the songs on. My favorite was "Dancing Queen," a wonderful and colorful number in which all the women on the island participate, reliving their past memories of lost romanticism and youth. The title song sequence "Mama Mia" is also good, as were "Does Your Mother Know" (sung by Christine Baranski) and "Take a Chance on Me" (sung by Julie Waters) and "SOS" (song by Pierce Brosnan).

The film suggests that Donna and her three lovers were children of the 60s, a decade that in fact occurred forty years earlier than the time of the film. But that discrepancy is not worth fretting over.

As Sam, the man Donna loved, Pierce Brosnan sings a number of songs. Am I mistaken about the pained look on his face? Anyway, everyone seems to be having fun.