Thursday, October 3, 2013

Movie #216: Grease

Grease is, of course, the 1978 film version of the stage musical. It stars John Travolta, Olivia Newton-John, Stockard Channing, Jeff Conway, Eve Arden, and Didi Conn, among others.

So. Danny (Travolta) and Sandy (Newton-John) meet over summer vacation and fall in teenage love. Danny, apparently, takes this opportunity to ditch the "greaser" side of himself and act a bit more vulnerable, and Sandy digs that. But Danny also assumes she's going back to Australia. Then she goes to the same school as he does, and Sandy falls in with the Pink Ladies, led by Rizzo (Channing), who gleefully introduces Sandy to Danny, hanging with his buddies, the T-Birds. And Danny acts like a dick, and Sandy runs off, and they spend the rest of the movie singing songs to each other, engaging in whacky teenage hijinks, and eventually she decides the only way she'll be able to be happy is to make him happy by changing everything about herself and adopting a greaser-chick persona.

(There are numerous subplots. About the only really interesting one is Rizzo and Kenickie (Conway) hooking up, because Rizzo so obviously still carries a torch for Danny. Really, Rizzo's the most interesting character in the show.)

But I want to touch on this whole "self-transformation" thing. It's actually kind of a theme, because Danny tries it, too - he wants Sandy, so he tries to be a jock, trying out for every sport that the eternally patient coach (Sid Caeser - fun fact, porn star and all around questionable human being Harry Reems was actually cast in this role until someone came to their senses) will let him attempt. They settle on cross-country, because that way he can't hit anybody. But what's interesting is, while Danny is shown losing at most other sports, it's because he's never tried them and he's too aggressive. But he's potentially good at any of them. Meanwhile, when Sandy wants to change to suit Danny, she changes her clothes and hair, and seems to drop her accent (which is a shame), and bam, insta-slut. It's weird, and I don't like the message it sends.

Also, this show apparently started off really vulgar and got cleaner over the years, but the boomers, as they are wont to do, nostal-gize it, so we get lines like "the chicks'll cream" which had to be sanitized to "the chicks'll scream" in the school version. They also tossed the "Rizzo think she's pregnant" subplot, which is, of course, never relevant to high school students.

The music catchy sometimes, fun sometimes, cringe sometimes. The opening song ("Grease") is terrible and anachronistic and disco-y, but "Summer Nights" remains fun. "Hopelessly Devoted" remains a little creepy, as does "Sandy." "We Go Together" really sums up the show, though. It's about a bunch of idiots in high school thinking this will never change.

My grade: C+
Rewatch value: Low

Next up: The Great Escape