appreciations

God Bless Young Christine Baranski in Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again

The casting directors of Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again had their work cut out for them. Since most of the movie takes place in the past, portraying the long-ago love affairs that were only referenced in the first Mamma Mia!, this sequel had to find young versions of almost every original cast member. Fortunately, they hired well: Lily James is so luminous as the 20-something version of Meryl Streep that you won’t care about the lack of a physical resemblance, while the three boys they hired to play young versions of Colin Firth, Stellan Skarsgard, and Pierce Brosnan are a lot of fun and each dreamy in his own way.

But we are here today to pay tribute to the most uncanny match of all, and that is the actress they got to play Young Christine Baranski. Holy hell, is this woman accurate. Step aside, Mission: Impossible - Fallout, because Young Christine Baranski is the best stunt work I’ve seen all summer.

While the other actors playing Youngs in this film strive mostly to embody the spirit of their older counterparts, Young Christine Baranski nails the spirit, the physical tics, the line readings, the walk … the everything! She’s got the honeyed, moneyed voice of Original Christine Baranski and that same delicious ability to aim a come-on like a dart: to hear Young Christine tell a hunk, “I just want to be upfront and say that I visually enjoy you,” is to know pure pleasure. Yes, the physical resemblance is a knockout — even if we have to accept that this character would wear her hair the same goddamn way for her entire adult life — but Young Christine Baranski is more than just her upturned nose and blunt bob. She is a lifestyle.

I can hardly describe the sound of appreciation that went through the audience when they realized just how well Young Christine Baranski was doing her job, except to liken it to the same swell of collective pleasure that happened every time another ABBA song began: It was the evocation of something familiar and irresistible, tweaked just enough to feel refreshed. You don’t miss Original Christine Baranski when her younger counterpart is onscreen; instead, the entire notion of Christine Baranski herself is embiggened by their combined chutzpah. The link between the Baranskis is so strong that it helps the movie span decades seamlessly, and after watching Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again flit between 1979 and and 2018 with Baranski’s bob as a constant, Westworld’s overcomplicated timelines just look like a dumb dork.

Does Young Christine Baranski have a real name? Well, her driver’s license would say “Jessica Keenan Wynn,” even though I feel strongly that Young Christine Baranski would have a driver instead of driving herself. And while Miss Wynn deserves all the credit in the world for this big-screen breakthrough, I have a humble proposal for her to go even bigger: Live full-time as Young Christine Baranski, and reap the dividends! Go to auditions as Young Christine Baranski! Change your legal name to Young Christine Baranski! The world is currently a sinkhole, and perhaps the only joy we could still feel is to know there are two Christine Baranskis out there instead of just one. Do it for America, and America will thank you.

Thank you for coming to my TED Talk.

God Bless Young Christine Baranski in Mamma Mia 2