From the Guardian, titled "Why We Love Mamma Mia!":
'It made me feel happy for the first time ever'
Julie Bindel, feminist writer and activist
I loved Mamma Mia! beyond any other film that I've seen this year, and I'll tell you why - because it made me feel happy for the first time ever. I'm usually a miserable bastard, but I was smiling for 12 hours, which is the longest I've ever smiled. It's not the sort of film to go and see sober, and I went after a bucket of wine and then sat at home with another one afterwards, drinking and smiling, the theme tune revolving around my head, and actually feeling for once that the world was quite a decent place.
Of course, the film included some of the things that I love to hate. There was lots of twee heterosexuality; there was some hideous middle-class mothering in it - the kind where the daughter is the pinnacle of the mother's achievements, and faultless to the point of idiocy; it features stupid middle-aged men, thinking that they can pull beautiful women, and then managing to; it's set on a Greek island - but doesn't have any proper Greek characters. What it does have though is the light! The sky! The blue-and-white buildings! It made me think of the times that I've been on holiday to Greece, and it was that which made the film comforting actually. It also had just the right balance of music, because as soon as I began to feel a bit bored with the shite acting of most of the cast, they'd burst into tune.
It was obvious that none of the actors were taking themselves seriously - how could they? - but there were some good performances. I love Julie Walters and Meryl Streep. I also liked the fact that the women sat around getting pissed together, and had all sorts of sexual impropriety in their backgrounds, which was not presented as a big deal. The plot centres on the idea that the main character doesn't know which of three men has fathered her child, which is a bit mucky really - but the film is so non-judgmental, it's a breath of fresh air. It was much better than the way that women are usually portrayed - not feminist at all, obviously, but very much a women's film. I'll definitely, definitely, definitely be watching it again.
'It's a joyful, celebratory experience'
Jeanette Winterson, author
I love it because it's a film that celebrates women, and women of a certain age. It's very unusual to see a film where the men come out looking completely ridiculous. Not in a nasty way, but they come out looking like chumps, while the women are gorgeous and wonderful.
It's the kind of film that you come out from feeling happy, and that's a rare experience. The politics are in there, but I'm not so interested in them: they're not the main focus. It's just a joyful, celebratory, happy experience. There are so many films where the women are sidelined and marginalised, just to turn that around is in itself a political act.
'It leaves you with a big smile'
Barbara Follett, minister for culture, creative industries and tourism
A trip to the cinema is pure escapism, especially when the film allows you to bask in the Greek sunshine and leaves you with a big smile. Abba are of course responsible for some of the most memorable songs in history, combine that with a fantastic cast and a great storyline involving strong female characters and it is no wonder the film was such a success. As films minister I'm delighted that a film with a British director and British writer at the helm has done so well.
'You don't have to be young and sweet and 17'
Naomi Alderman, author
Of course the Abba songs are fantastic, because they're a genius pop band, but more importantly it's a movie that uses the female gaze. We all know about the male gaze - the new Bond film is a good example - but Mamma Mia! is a film that knows its audience is made up of women. The young female character, played by Amanda Seyfried, wears a one-piece swimsuit throughout. She looks like a young girl really would look on a beach in Greece. It makes you feel relaxed, as a woman watching. In fact, it's the men who are presented in a sexualised way.
It was very interesting to see the film get totally panned by male critics, but they just didn't understand it. In any other film, the 20-year-old female character would have been Pierce Brosnan's love interest, but in Mamma Mia! there's no hint of sexual tension between them. And when you know that's not going to happen, you relax.
It's a very hopeful film. It shows the possibilities of living a good life as a woman: not a perfect life, or a dream come true, but a good life. The story is silly and the dialogue is silly, but the heart of the film says, do you know what, it's OK to be a woman, whatever age you are and whatever stage you are at in life. The fact that Dancing Queen is sung by Meryl Streep, a woman in her 50s, shows that no matter what age you are, you can be the dancing queen: you don't have to be young and sweet and 17.
'It was a bit like wartime'
Melissa Benn, author
I went to see Mamma Mia! with my two teenage daughters and their two friends, and the only experience I can compare it with was when I took them to see Sing-a-long-a Sound of Music. It was a bit like wartime - one of those collective experiences. It started, and we were all in the cinema looking up at a screen. By the end, our whole row was dancing - except for me of course, I wasn't allowed to because I'm an embarrassing mum.
It's just one of those films that seems to connect everyone in the audience in exuberant enjoyment. And it crosses the generations. Of course, Abba first came around in the 1970s, so for people who liked them then - and I can't say I was one of them - there's a link to that era. But then there are all these 12- and 13-year-olds discovering the music and loving it too. My daughters adored it. I'll be interested to see whether they'll get the DVD, and whether watching it will be the same experience, because from my point of view the power of it was in connecting strangers in the audience. You're all having the same experience, and I'm all for anything that gets people sharing things in a positive way.
'I am the show's biggest fan'
Jenni Murray, broadcaster
I've seen the stage show seven times and I have to say I was disappointed by the film. What's wonderful about the show is that it fizzes with wit, and the timing is just so perfect and so funny, and somehow in the film they lost some of that spontaneity.
I am Mamma Mia!'s biggest fan, for it's politics, it's fun, for the music - I listened to all the Abba songs in the 70s and thought the music was completely naff, but I love the way they use the songs in the show. It's a show that draws female friendship beautifully. And it celebrates a woman having had, not hundreds of lovers, but three - and treats that with such subtlety and fun. The relationship between the mother and daughter is beautifully drawn, and the song that the mother sings about losing her daughter makes me cry every time. It's about a woman being independent and determined that she's going to bring up her child alone and then, when love comes along, opening herself up to it entirely. It's a life-affirming piece of work and I love it.
In the film the basics are all there, and I cried at the same song, but it lacked that subtlety and fizz. I can see why people have enjoyed it, because there are few films that celebrate women with such joy. And it's so rare that you find a film that presents relationships in that way. It's political, but it's a romance.
So to people who have seen the film, and enjoyed it for those reasons, I would say see the show. My parents are dead now, but they came down for a weekend once and I took them to see it - they loved it just as much as I did. I took my kids, and they loved it too. It's a show for everyone.
'It's like a Bollywood film'
Noorjehan Barmania, writer
The film was a disaster - over the top, absolutely ridiculous - and I kept thinking "I shouldn't be enjoying this," but I did. Because it's fun, and I could sing along, I knew all the words. It's like a rollercoaster: you know you're going to hate it, but you give in to it and find yourself enjoying it. It picked me up.
I can see why women respond to it. The production team was female, it's about the relationships between women and the female characters are incredibly strong, if a little bit mad. Even my sister in South Africa, who is very Muslim - at the other end of the religious spectrum to myself - loved it. She's getting married and she's decided that instead of a traditional henna party, she wants to have an Abba party - everyone has to sing a song and wear an Abba outfit. I suppose if you think about all the things the film stood for, they are not the values that she would espouse, but the point of the film was to have fun. The focus was the music; the story was kind of irrelevant, cobbled together to fit around the hits. In that way it's like a Bollywood film: the storyline isn't so important, it's all about the songs and the dances.
'Even Pierce Brosnan's iffy singing has a certain charm'
Jane Asher, actor and author
I'm a Mamma Mia! groupie. I'm always a sucker for girly, romantic tearjerkers in any case (however rubbishy and however much you can predict the story almost scene by scene - and this one isn't rubbishy). Combine the wonderfully slushy plot and outcome with the fabulous setting, the brilliant Meryl Streep and all the other terrific cast and the glory of that addictive soundtrack, and you really can't go wrong. Even Pierce Brosnan's iffy singing has a certain charm about it, in that you're willing him to hit those notes and feel very proud of him when he just about gets there.
This is the classic time for us all to want a bit of sunshine, love and escapism: there's nothing like a recession for making us desperate for a bit of light relief, and as we keep being told, almost daily, that capitalism as we know it is imploding round our ears, it's not surprising that we need an injection of totally improbable fluffy happiness.
'What a joy. What a novelty'
Kathy Lette, author
The reason Mamma Mia! has been such a success is because for too long, all Hollywood has offered women is a guide to becoming a bimbo. Hollywood is allergic to real women: women with the odd bit of armpit stubble; women with cheek and chutzpah.
So, what a joy to finally have a film full of middle-aged female protagonists - funny, feisty, independent, sexually assertive. What a novelty to see a movie where the women aren't waiting around to be rescued by something tall, dark and bankable, nor having endless Academy award-winning orgasms - with no foreplay.
This is a life-affirming film about female friendship, which proves that women are each other's human Wonderbras - uplifting, supportive and making each other look bigger and better.
"...it is the weak who are cruel, and...gentleness is only to be expected from the strong." - Leo Reston
"Cruelty might be very human, and it might be cultural, but it's not acceptable." - Jodie Foster