Grease (1978) (PG-13)
I don't think it comes to anyone's surprise that I didn't care for "Grease". The problem is that a lot of people do. I've made no hesitancy to share my distaste for other "great" movies like "The Godfather" or "The Shining" but it's hard to feel credible when you have to balance objective and subjective points of view. Subjectively I don't care for "Grease" and objectively I think it's only so-so.
The movie isn't a spectacle musical like "An American in Paris" or even something like "The Sound of Music". It's songs are fairly catchy but you won't find them as ingrained in our culture as Julie Andrews's solos or something out of "Chicago". What am I trying to say? The movie is more about its style than itself as a film.
The movie drops us into a very chic and well-coiffed 1970s highschool where all the kids have one thing on their mind: their GPA and being respectable. Hah! LOL no that's no it. All these kids want to do is have sex with each other, but being raised in America where everyone has icky feelings towards what happens in the dark, a lot of these 30 year olds playing highschoolers pretend that they've never had sex before. A lot of the songs condemn people who maintain their virginity or exalt the wonders of sex itself. It's no wonder all of us are kind of messed up.
Danny (John Travolta in an iconic role) is the leader of the greaser gang at school. The T-birds are the cool rebel kids with greased back hair, James Dean attitudes, and leather jackets. Like "West Side Story" before it, "Grease" gives the viewer a lot of different clicks that intermingle. It's kind of a gang story but without all the poignant racism commentary and interesting character development.
The Pink Ladies are led by Rizzo (Stockard Channing). These girls are not quintessential ladies, instead they're scrappy and intelligent, seen as the foils to the T-birds. Then there's the Scorpions who are the faceless villains of the movie. We see the leader, but he doesn't really have a personality and we don't really know anything about him other than he really doesn't like Danny and company.
In the first scene, Danny has found love in Sandy (Olivia Newton-John) but she won't "give it up" and she's going back to Australia anyway so he returns to Rydell Highschool and continues in his life of rebellious teen angst.
Meanwhile Sandy is actually not going back to Australia, but instead, coming to Rydell where we are sure the two will meet again under different circumstances. Ooh, intrigue. Can you feel my interest slowly draining out of my head? I hope so.
So the movie continues and the infamous songs get more infamous and we begin to wonder how anything like this was ever acceptable in 1978. This movie features such strange curiosities like an older man being disgustingly flirtatious with a highschool girl, a conversation about a broken condom, and references to masturbation. Not that any of that is bad, but for a movie that seems to tip-toe the line between condemning highschool kids for being sexual and yet flaunts that very sexuality, it's no wonder the best part of "Grease" is the fashion.
The shirts are tight, the poodle skirts are poodle-y, and the hair is very big tonight, Phyllis.
The plot shifts half-way through to include the rivalry between the Scorpions and the T-birds. It's a forced move that leads to a clunky race-car conclusion.
For all its fun set pieces and dance numbers I can't help but wonder if this movie would have worked better as one of these moments it features: just an hour long American Bandstand dance-off. Maybe then we could have cut out all the characters who didn't feel real.
Just look at how the film treats Frenchy (Didi Conn) as the butt of so many jokes. It's not that her presence is unwanted, but her mood seems to swing with her hair colors. She's sort of the moral center of the movie's commentary. Go back to school.
But maybe that's what I need to do. So if you want me, I'll be catching up on homework and trying to forget that "Grease" is a thing.
Posted by Micah Jones