Director: Randal Kleiser
Writers: Bronte Woodard & Allan Carr
I have never ever watched Grease until now. I was vaguely familiar with the idea of the film. I knew it was a big deal for John Travolta, and also for Olivia Newton-John, the two leads. And I knew it was a musical. I decided to check this flick now.
Another semester starts for Danny Zuko (is he a prince of the Fire Nation?) who’s met a girl he fancies during the summer. They’ve spent their time together at a beach not knowing a whole lot about each other. Danny doesn’t know that his summer fling Sandy also goes at the same school. When they finally meet Danny has to keep up appearances for his friends so he ends up insulting Sandy by acting like a dick Ford Fairlane.
Good girl Sandy befriends with group of girls who call themselves Pink Ladies (they wear pink clothes, duh!) and gets to try all the dangerous stuff teenagers try, like drinking booze, smoking cigarettes and piercing her ear. He tries dating this athletic guy, but her heart still throbs for Danny, who’s also madly in love with Sandy and tries picking up sports to impress her.
Eventually they start dating, but Danny wants to take things a bit further, but good girl Sandy does not want to put out. They break up, but there’s still hope that they will end up back together before the semester is over…
Seriously, that is the main plot of the film and by golly that isn’t even all that the movie offers. There’s two other side plot’s going on. The first is about Sandy’s friend Rizzo (Stockard Channing) and Danny’s buddy Kenickie (Jeff Conaway) having trouble in their relationship when Rizzo ends up getting pregnant. And the second…oh boy. The second side plot is about Frenchy (Didi Conn) who drops out of school to be a beautician, but finds out that it’s harder than she thought because she has to educate herself and that is too hard for her. Fuck that is stupid. So she drops out of high school to attend to another beauty school or whatever. And then she ends up dropping out of that too. AND THEN FRANKIE AVALON SINGS TO HER IN HER HALLUCINATION TELLING HER SHE SHOULD GO BACK TO SCHOOL. Everybody got that?
Oh my god this movie’s scattered. The several plotlines never gel together and there’s even this big televised dance-off that goes absolutely fucking nowhere. It’s basically a 20-minute scene where everybody gets to show off their dancing chops. All that happens in this scene is that Sandy gets upset for Danny dancing with this other girl when Zuko’s buddies carry (for some odd reason) Sandy off the dance floor. And it’s the end of the second act. I get that this should be the breaking point in their relationship, but in their very next scene together they are at a drive-in acting like nothing happened at the dance. And that’s where Sandy gets pissed off at Danny for trying to have sex with her and breaks up with him.
Let’s talk a little about the musical numbers. In my opinion they’re pretty hit and miss. There’s few numbers that are just stunning in their delivery and musicality (“You’re The One that I Want”, “Summer Nights” and the gorgeous “Hopelessly Devoted To You” ) but unfortunately there’s too much filler songs (“Greased Lightning”, “Look At Me I’m Sandra Dee”) and then there’s these totally weird fucking song numbers. There’s the aforementioned Frankie Avalon number “Beauty School Drop Out” and John Travolta’s weird ballad “Sandy” that he sings right after he tried to date rape her. I mean, really weird stuff.
So as a musical it’s so-so and as a “coming of age in the 50’s” it’s really shitty. George Lucas did the same thing far better a few years back with “American Graffiti”. The cinematography is beautiful (but when is Bill Butler’s work NOT good) and John Travolta is surprisingly effective in his role and he elevates the material to a classic status by his charisma alone. The only scene I felt I was really connecting with the film is the scene where Danny berates Sandy in front of his buddies to keep his tough guy image intact. Travolta gives this really heartfelt look of remorse when Sandy walks away. Newton-John is also good in her role, but it’s Stockard Channing who’s getting more out her role as Rizzo. She is great.
Lastly, I really hate the ending. Danny beats this douchebag at a car race and Sandy is impressed, so when they meet for the next time she is transformed to this black wearing greaser skank. Not only does she look hideously cheap and ugly, it also pounds the movie’s own message to the ground. It should be about Danny’s willingness to let go of his greaser character that he’s made to himself, not the other way around. Danny is a prisoner in his persona and Sandy does not set him free, but rather joins him in his masquerade that he cannot escape. This ending should’ve been obvious to the writers, but they just had to get Olivia Newton-John wearing that moronic suit and hair. The movie even ends on a shot where the greaser couple flies off in the sky with their car implying they are so far off in their fantasy personas that they are not grounded on reality anymore. That’s more depressing than Thelma and Louise driving off the cliff.
I really can’t recommend this to anyone other than fans of John Travolta. The fans of the songs should just buy the fucking soundtrack. Which I’m pretty sure you have.
Best scene: John Travolta’s performance when Danny unwillingly insults Sandy.
Most memorable bit: “You’re The One That I Want” song at the end which would’ve been great as the closing number. But they screw even this one up by adding one unnecessary sha-na-na-nonsense song number before the end credits. Idiots.