Josh Stoddard’s review published on Letterboxd:
"Be still my beating vagina."
Lily James single-handedly won me over on this movie.
Which is funny because I've been cracking jokes about this movie and her casting every time the trailer's played in the cinema. Not that I made fun of her or didn't like her. In fact, I was yet to form an opinion. I just realised and found it amusing how she seemed to be cast in so many things at once all of a sudden. Now, I can safely say she deserves her rising star status.
A lesser actress would resort to impersonating Meryl Streep and even though James manages to channel the glorified icon, she makes the character her own. Donna is fleshed out and complex. Just seeing what happened with Sophie's "dads" helped me somewhat understand her frustrating behaviour in the original movie.
Although, what did Bill and Harry do that was so wrong to her? Bill's portrayed as a playboy by everyone else but we never really see any evidence of this and he just disappears after Donna finds out she's pregnant. Similarly, Harry follows Donna to the island but he never finds her? So, why does she hold a grudge against them 20 years later when she's the one who slept with them and left? Yes, she has no obligation to them but they didn't break her heart like Sam?
Regardless, I'm slightly disappointed that the flashbacks just petered out after Donna becomes pregnant but we know the story from there. I did like the parallel of past and present complimenting each other and culminating in a fluffy but poetic way.
However, the present offered more of my least favourite tropes. This time, when someone sacrifices a dream job for their partner so they get what they want and the other doesn't but settles for love. If you truly love someone unconditionally, you support their aspirations, especially if they're close to success they've worked hard for.
Sure, if it puts the relationship into a difficult situation, you don't want to risk it but if it's possible to compromise and get the best of both worlds, do it. Relationships involve sacrifices but those shouldn't be one-sided sacrifices or involve hopes and dreams. Basically, Sky should have been able to take his job offer in New York but Sophie guilt-trips him, preoccupied fulfilling another trope, the supposed wishes of a deceased loved one.
You expect me to believe Donna asked her daughter to run the hotel after she died? Come on, the Sheridans are supposed to free-spirits but both are complacent living their entire lives on a Greek island catering for others? How can they even afford to be stable? I'm guessing Cher is just as rich in this universe?
Why am I picking holes in this? Maybe because there's a plot to be picked? Unlike the first, this is actually a film with proper direction. It looks, feels and sounds like a musical should. I found the set-pieces (is that the right term?) in the original were messy and boring but these were choreographed well and visually interesting. My favourite is "When I Kissed The Teacher" because of the contrast between Donna and her environment and how it establishes her character. The songs didn't feel forced but fit the flow and drove the narrative.
Basically, they got it right this time. For me, as someone with zero attachment to the original, this is a huge step in quality. It made me smile and laugh a lot and the surprisingly heavy emotional beats worked. Whatever magic I missed from the first one found me here.
Move over Meryl, Lily James has arrived and she deserves your top billing.
P.S. Hugh Skinner deserves more credit for an inch-perfect imitation of Colin Firth. Speaking of who, where was his boyfriend? Pffft.