A film I loved that you hated, and a film I hated that you loved…
These two films star two one time Mean Girls who both starred with Channing Tatum, but both found at opposite ends of my to like list.
It’s time for my yearly rant and more with the challenge I did earlier…
“OK, which movies you love but Rotten Tomatoes hate with a tomato meter score of 35% or less and which you hate but the folks using this site, love with a tomato meter score of 75% upwards”
This year those movies are… (cue trumpet) the one I loved, The Vow (2012) and the one I hated (a lot), Mamma Mia Here We Go Again (2018). The first review of this sort was on Notting Hill (1999) and Cocktail (1988). But back to the present day with firstly the one I adore…
The Vow (2012)
THE VOW – Official Trailer – In Theaters Valentine’s Day 2012, Sony Pictures Entertainment
If you are an avid reader of this blog, you’ll know just how much I hate the contrived romance film genre. This in particular of The Notebook (2004) with Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams kind in a film adaptation of this Nicholas Sparks
drivel novel. However, just reading the plot and the leads of the cast of The Vow may conjure up more thoughts of the same or every soap from Dynasty (1981-89) to Neighbours (1985-). So bear with me.
The film tells of the happily married Paige (Rachel McAdams) and Leo (Channing Tatum) who driving home from a movie, sing, flirt and talk about the best place to try for a baby. After she unfastens her seat belt to kiss him, they stop at traffic lights in the snow. A truck loses control and crashes into their car, and she flies out the front window.
They both end up in the hospital, where she is put into a medicated coma to let her brain mend. She wakes up from her coma and can’t remember the last five years. She doesn’t recognise Leo, and in the five forgotten years, Paige became estranged from her parents but she can’t remember why, gave up law school and took up a successful career in art, broke up with her then-fiance, Jeremy (Scott Speedman) and met, hooked up and married
the one man beefcake, Leo. Her parents have never met Leo, and it feels a wee bit awkward after they turn up at her hospital bed.
To help get her memory back, she moves in with Leo after he proves they were madly in love and married. Choosing this option, rather than move back with her superrich parents, Bill (Sam Neill) and Rita (Jessica Lange). For Paige and Leo, there are difficult moments, stressful moments and sexy moments when he walks in on her in the scud (cue Tatum’s bare butt) and she’s in her undies.
She visits her douchebag fiance Jeremy to find out about why they broke up, and in a wtf moment, they snog. But as she says to him later she can only remember their good times (Mental note to myself, should I need it… ex-fiances are usually ex-fiances for a reason and husbands are husbands for a reason).
Sound contrived? The Vow‘s plot was loosely inspired by true events. The leads of this romance drama spent time with the real-life couple they portrayed. McAdams and Tatum were praised by the real life “Paige” and “Leo” for their accurate performances in this movie. I liked this film as it was inspired by a real-life love story – even if it does sound like a soap opera trope. And who wouldn’t want their love story to be immortalised by two photogenic actors?
Because this film was based on fact, immediately the contrived bits felt more warm, authentic and romantic. This was especially felt in one scene when Leo takes Paige on a date to their old haunts in the hope it triggers her memory to come back. This leads me to the second reason I like it… Paige didn’t get the “miracle” moment where she remembers everything, and then dashes to an airport or church to rekindle their love before Leo moves away, gets married etc. And this so could easily have happened with it being “loosely based”.
Admittedly, Leo’s initial narration did niggle me, this was with Leo’s clumsily timed life lesson talking about moments of impact and how they affect us. This is as when he says impact this was timed with the moment the McAdams stunt double / dummy is hurled out the car window in their accident. This unfortunately reminded me again of the Ronan Keating pop video, for If Tomorrow Never Comes. This is a case of a lovely song but a wtf video and why Keating went with this “plot” we will never know. And more of this gripe HERE.
Leo and Paige’s story always felt authentic and realistic as she didn’t get any of her memory back. This made it a genuine account with convincing performances from the cast. The plot was then more accurate of the highs and lows of having memory difficulties and how your partner or family may feel towards this.
McAdams and Tatum had lovely on-screen chemistry and this was seen in the then with flashbacks before the accident. It was also seen in the now as they tentatively date and then move on separately as she tries to find herself. Flashbacks included when he meets her and asks her to move in with him. He asks her to move in by writing it in blueberries at breakfast time, which I do hope happened in real life being an incurable romantic when it comes to real life romance.
And then they get married.. and both of them scrawled their handwritten wedding vows on a menu from the same restaurant, what are the odds??? All these proving it’s true love my friend, if you didn’t guess from a much more giddy McAdams performance and Tatum’s sensitive caring loved up one.
Up til now, I had only seen Tatum in a song and dance number in Hail Caesar! (2016) and up til then had thought he was a budget Ryan Gosling. But I am apologising now for this thought and for thinking he was a bit of a himbo. I was impressed by his realistic portrayal of the understanding husband. I did want to give the wee lamb a hug at times, as he seemed on the verge of tears for most of his scenes.
McAdams was also incredible in her strong performance. This is in a film where she could show the depth of her acting range. She did this splendidly in a wide range of meaningful situations for her character. Her character was written with understanding rather than cliche.
As this screenplay was written by the real-life pair that these true events occurred with, she was both less one dimensional and annoying than those more contrived romance roles. These namely as her character Allie in The Notebook, Clare in The Time Travellers Wife (2009) and Mary in About Time (2013). And yes all of these films have been reviewed here, but it doesn’t mean I like them.
The strong roles and gravitas continue in the casting of Paige’s parents. Both Neill and Lange are given a chance to show their acting chops in this story. As Paige finds out more about her missing five years… and discovered yes Jeremy is still a douchebag. And for apparently no reason this film got 31% on Rotten Tomatoes.
And now for the travesty that is…
Mamma Mia 2: Here We Go Again (2018)
MAMMA MIA 2 Here We Go Again NEW Trailer (2018) Amanda Seyfried, Lily James, Movie HD, ONE Media
Mamma Mia 2: Here We Go Again (2018) is one I hated just on hearing the title. This was amplified after watching the muddled trailer – as seen to coincide with the film release HERE – as the film is set in the future and the past. The voiceovers are just as random and I was dumbfounded with this trailer plot, after seeing the full movie.
The film got 79% on Rotten Tomatoes and was probably because of nostalgia for the first film. I had nostalgia for it too admittedly, but this intensified after seeing this film. The plot of this first film Mamma Mia (2008), I described as;
Sophie has invited her mother’s old flames to her wedding but one of the three will be revealed as Sophie’s father.
This led to this film sequel and prequel described as;
Mamma Mia returns for an origins story all about Sophie’s mother, Donna with a mystery on where Donna is now… and Cher.
This second film came out ten years after the original film, with everyone and their mother flocking in. I had avoided it as I had chosen to stick with my memories of the men as they looked in a kinda flashback in the first movie. And also as I knew exactly what would happen in young Donna’s part of the story as it had been told in the first movie. Also – more importantly – as my mum – who has great taste in films – warned me about it first.
So after stupidly listening to the voices in my head, I watched this when it was released at the cinema for a trailer review HERE. After watching the full film, I wasn’t surprised to see my premonition for the use of the Fernando song, had come true. I had guessed Cher’s song would be a solo, but this song was instead sung in a painful duet with Andy Garcia – who sings worse than Pierce Brosnan – complete with a dance routine. Coincidentally Andy Garcia’s first name in the film is Fernando, which anyone would guess, and isn’t exactly a spoiler alert!
I assumed that Garcia didn’t read the small print which said this was a musical sequel. But then I read that Cher handpicked him – as she seems to do with all her on-screen love interests (see Moonstruck (1987)). And she also demanded to sing Fernando, which meant they must have added this scene just for her – and no, I still don’t want to see a prequel of this film with a CGIed Cher and Garcia. But it appears these films were envisaged as a trilogy. So watch this space.
Anyway, the film stars an actress Lily James as the younger Donna (originally Meryl Streep). Admittedly, I didn’t know who Lily James was when I reviewed the trailer, but now sadly I do. She was irritating as fxxx and effortlessly replaced Emma Stone in my actresses I dislike list. She also appeared in a remake of Rebecca (1940), and I’ve added James’ version of this Daphne Du Maurier classic to my to avoid list after seeing the trailer. Stone has since redeemed herself with the La La Land final montage. Soagain watch this space, as maybe this actress will redeem herself one day…
As for the plots, in the now, Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) is opening a hotel in her now-deceased mother, Donna’s honour. Meanwhile, in the past, it tells in a nutshell, how Sophie was conceived by one of three men who got to know her mother, one fateful summer.
The trio of younger men – and then possible Sophie father’s – were Bill (Josh Dylan), Harry (Hugh Skinner) and Sam (Jeremy Irvine). These young men in time metamorphose into Stellan Skarsgard, Colin Firth and Pierce Brosnan respectively. So it’s less confusing I’ll write about the plot in the past with young Donna, then the future with dead Donna.
The story in the past, young Donna (James) tells her pals Rosie (Alexa Davies) and Tanya (Jessica Keenan Wynn) that her mother’s too busy singing in concerts to attend her graduation. She then says goodbye to Rosie and Tanya and she legs it to Europe alone. But before we can go there we have Celia Imrie channelling her inner Miss Jean Brodie accent at this graduation where naturally Donna has to give a speech.
Rosie and Tanya then join her on the stage, and the students whoop and clap and I can only assume this footage was in response to someone else, then cut into the film. The three girls then sing a bloody unknown ABBA song, So I Kissed the Teacher. And then they do just that… Even Benny or Bjorn, aka the only ABBA group member present in this movie (unless I blinked at the wrong time), looks in pain (or was acting). When you remember both Benny and Bjorn appeared in the first film, this indicates that… This song goes on and on with a really contrived montage of Oxford life – and I know as I lived there once – as the girls and the students sing an ABBA song.
Anyway, Donna heads to Europe and her first stop is France. There she meets Harry, he’s shy awkward and increasingly realLY ANNOYING. But being France, it gives him an excuse to sing Waterloo to Donna and to dance to it. In a French restaurant with most of the men dressed as Napoleon. And yes, it’s as painful as it sounds. Then as you wistfully remember the first movie when he was Colin Firth and singing One Last Summer after learning he was possibly father to Sophie, the younger Donna and Harry sleep together.
Then it’s onto Greece and she meets the Swedish one, Bill. Bill conveniently has a yacht after she misses the boat to the island. But she doesn’t sleep with him (yet). Then after a flirt and after an ABBA themed duet, Bill fxxxx off to do a yacht race, and she meets the one who plays the young Pierce Brosnan.
Sam looks like Sam Heughan’s love child, and despite his lack of Brosnan’s accent, charisma and charm which perhaps he grew into, Donna falls in love. Cue songs, montages, moonlight… Then Donna discovers a
studio photo of a pretty redhead with him and dumps him… and the rest can be seen by watching Mamma Mia and not this rubbish.
In the future, Sophie is opening the – unfortunately named – Bella Donna – which sounds like a Glaswegian Pasta and kebab house, and Darlin Husband told me is also a poison – hotel with the help of Señor Fernando Cienfuegos (Andy Garcia). Her mother’s pals, Tanya and Rosie visit the island to support her. Rosie has broken up with Bill since the last film, and like me, bursts into tears when anyone mentions
Meryl dead Donna (but probably for different reasons).
Skye (an ironed looking Dominic Cooper), Sophie’s now-husband is in New York learning how to be a hotel manager. This married pair fights on the phone after he suggests they move there as he has been offered a job. He tells that her (dead) mother would have wanted him to take it (basically). Cue another contrived ABBA wee duet. But a song you would recognise…
That’s really all there is to this part of the plot, apart from at the hotel opening, Cher appears as her estranged grandmother, Garcia is revealed as Fernandooooooooo and Sophie discovers she’s pregnant.. leading to a baby called Donny (!) who has pierce-ing eyes. Oh, how I smiled at this wee Donna reference and laughed at the Brosnan in joke. NOT!
This film features even less known ABBA songs and it shows, with those tenuous links even more tenuous. And why tell us about the past, if we knew exactly how the plot would go? The plot in the first film seemed just regurgitated, so this film is for those completists only.
Lily James admittedly was better than I thought in the singing and dancing departments. And Jessica Keenan Wynn is as they say perfect casting as Tanya’s younger self. But the interchangeable younger men playing Sophie’s dads in their younger days were an insult to the much better and more loved actors they grew up to be. I could make it easier by calling the younger actors eenie, meenie and mo or any combination of these and any love that you had for those older characters will evaporate completely after seeing them in their younger days.
As for the “oldies”, Cher nearly stole the show in the future segments with her appearance heralded by a helicopter. But she was upstaged by a certain cameo who appeared at the end like a Deus Ex Machina. This cameo now appears in the new trailer above, which made much more sense compared to the confusing one I first saw.
I did enjoy the double act of the older Tanya and Rosie at times. Apart from one line of the script where the pair fall for Andy Garcia’s character (and notably before he sang with then copped off with Cher). With this line of the script said by older Tanya, Christine Baranski and proving it’s more silver foxes for her these days, as she’s grown out of toyboys. Julie Walters showed her comic talents fantastically too.
I would have preferred a film with these two older characters vying over Sam, who is now a widower
who still can’t sing. This rather than the awful “comedy” segments with Firth and Skarsgard which included Skarsgard has an overweight double as part of a “comic” storyline for older Bill. After the three men are reunited, Colin Firth looks as miserable as he did in the Bridget Jones Baby (2016) film (or maybe he was acting too). Brosnan sings without music and his is possibly the bravest singing performance in the movie, as he doesn’t have Cher or an orchestra to partly drown him out.
Luckily the final song over the credits, has the whole cast singing in a kind of duet, with the other actor / actress who played them in the future or past. This clip would have been better as a trailer than the one I reviewed earlier. So that’s it. Literally one, I vow you’ll love, and one you’ll think mamma mia, here we go again…
Against the Crowd Blogathon No 25
This post was added to Dell on Movies Against the Crowd Blogathon. Other posts with this cast on this blog include Rachel McAdams in The Notebook, The Time Travellers Wife and About Time. Jessica Lange stars in Sweet Dreams and The Postman Always Rings Twice. The older members Mamma Mia cast star in this review HERE of the original movie, the trailer of Mamma Mia We Go Again is HERE. Colin Firth stars in Love Actually and Bridget Jones Baby. Amanda Seyfried in A Million Ways to Die in the West. Dominic Cooper in Starter for 10. Meryl Streep in Kramer vs Kramer and Heartburn. Julie Walters in Educating Rita and Canterbury Tales. Pierce Brosnan in Mars Attacks and The Fourth Protocol. Christine Baranski in Chicago.