He Said/She Said #16: Grease
He Said/She Said is a weekly column where a male and female reviewer from the site team up to debate the merits of a particular film.
I have to admit that I am surprised to be defending GREASE. I personally have never thought about why GREASE is so great because it is so widely accepted. There is no need to explain the premise everyone has seen and loved this film.
The biggest argument for GREASE is that we may not have John Travolta as Vincent Vega in PULP FICTION, his greatest character ever in possibly the greatest movie ever. We would be specifically without his great dance sequence with Uma Thurman. As far as Travolta and dancing goes, GREASE begat SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER and SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER begat PULP FICTION. I know we are missing STAYING ALIVE and the LOOK WHO’S TALKING series, but I only have so much room. And where would be without Olivia Newton-John? I’ll tell you where. We would be without XANADU or her hit single Physical. Without GREASE we would never have GREASE 2! And that’s a world I don’t want to live in. OK, maybe I’m not helping my argument.
In all seriousness, GREASE is great for the feeling it brings to everyone. In one word, nostalgia. But over that, it brings a good message. Pretending to be someone you’re not but can’t fight the peer pressure of your surrounding friends. The conservative hot girl wants to let loose and come out of her shell. The cool guy wants to be in love and sing…well I guess they all want to sing. You get my point. The film breaks down those social barriers teens seem to flock to within clicks. Regardless of what you think of the songs, they are identifiable. Everyone knows them and everyone gets involved singing together like Tiny Dancer does for the band Stillwater in ALMOST FAMOUS. Grease transcends people into a happier moment in life.
This story of summer lovin’ gone awry when girl (Olivia Newton-John) re-meets boy (John Travolta) after she transfers to his high school (plus all the miscellaneous side stories) makes me want to puke Exorcist style. For the life of me I cannot grasp what induces gagging more: the songs & story-line or the fact that I suffer through the Greased Lightning re-mix at almost any dance, party or reception I attend, reconfirming my disgust with this ‘classic’. It’s a toss up. Both are awful.
What were my parents thinking, allowing us to watch this movie at a young age when this movie is loaded with catchy tunes containing inappropriate lyrics? I don’t think I realized exactly what was being said in the aforementioned song until many years after my first viewing. Ewww. What is the message in this beloved film? If you have a hot car you’ll get the girl? That you can get the guy in the end if you slut it up a bit? (Guys, quit nodding your heads). The only story line I can get behind in GREASE is the push for Didi Conn’s character, Frenchy, and for the beauty school drop out to go back to high school.
I must confess, however, there are a few things I enjoyed in this film. They are: 1. Stockard Channing. Unlike syrupy sweet Sandy (Newton-John), Stockard’s performance as the brash, opinionated and independent Rizzo is brilliant. She is fiery yet vulnerable all at once. Hard to believe she was 33 when taking on this legendary role. 2. The flaky secretary and her xylophone. 3. The dance competition, because, well, I am a sucker for all dance related scenes in a film, annoying hand-jive and all. And…that will wrap up the list.
Realizing I’m in the minority and have probably broken some alliance sworn by girls across the globe to honor this movie till death do us part, I apologize if I’ve hurt anyone who has strong ties to this film. It’s just that I can find one million other ways to waste my time than to ever re-watch GREASE.