Ever since “The Jazz Singer” first integrated the moving picture with music, movie musicals have stood firm ground in cinematic history. In many ways, film is the one medium that is closest to the theatre. Primarily, through its combination of sound, visuals, performance, and so on and so forth. However, one way film differentiates from theatre is its way that it can literally create a new realm of existence with its own rules. One could very easily film a live performance, but could not put some of Buster Keaton’s best stunts on stage.
So, the musical worked perfectly with the film medium, as it too deals in creating fantastical worlds, in which characters will sing at random about anything and everything. The combination of film and musical have created some of the most beautiful films of all time. Nothing else can convey emotions the way a good musical can. Romance could not be captured the same way as Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers could in their song and dance, or the electricity of the works of Bob Fosse, or the simple joy of “Singin’ in The Rain.” The movie musical is by far one of the most beautiful film genres of them all. And then, there are films like 1978’s “Grease.”
I don’t like this movie. In fact, I very much despise this movie. I hate this movie with every fiber of my very being. I can not fathom how any one person can even enjoy this. Its very existence feels like an insult to musicals, film, and my time. I feel a way about this movie that is only comparable to the way Victor Frankenstien felt about his creation. That its mere presence is a crime upon existence itself.
“Grease” is a musical about a young girl named Sandy who moves to a new school and falls in love with Danny, a young greaser boy.
Normally, when writing something, one would generally want to include characters that are in some way likeable. If going for more of a “Great Gatsby” kind of approach, the audience still, at least, wants some characters that are at least relatable in some way. I can’t say I like or even relate to any of these characters.
The only vaguely likable character in this god-forsaken film would be Sandy. Danny is an abusive bully to any that has some strange reason to approach him, and somehow his friends are even worse. I have no idea how I’m supposed to root for Danny. In fact, most of the movie, I found myself rooting against him.
The friends surrounding Sandy are no better. All they do is bully Sandy as well! It’s almost like every character’s sole purpose is to bully Sandy for not fitting in and submitting to the downright awfulness of Danny. Every character except Frankie Avalon’s character, who I will pay actual money to whoever explains just why on Earth his character is in this movie.
The performances actually match the respective character pretty well. In that they’re all terrible. Here’s a quick question to anyone that’s seen the movie: Did you know that Sandy is Austrailian? Neither did Olivia Newton John, it seems. She has an Australian accent, but only in a handful of scenes. In the rest, she has an American accent. The strangest thing about this however, is that she naturally has a British accent. So if she really wanted to die on the hill of the Austrailian accent, she easily could have. It isn’t all too different than a British accent. However, she still primarily uses an American accent. It’s not like this could’ve been an accident. Just like an actor using any accent, a British actor would have to get an extensive amount of coaching in order to perfect an American accent. It is one of many decisions made in this film that I don’t think I’ll ever understand.
Somehow, John Travolta has an even stranger way of speaking. It’s like an American accent but… a-skewed. If I had to describe it, it’s like asking someone who only had an extremely vague recollection of “Happy Days” to do an impression of “The Fonz.” Over the course of about 2 long hours, it started to sound more and more like a wailing cat scratching a chalkboard. However, he is quite a good dancer, a fact that was already well-established in “Saturday Night Fever.”
The songs are also not great. Much like the movie, they feel hollow, teeny-boppy, and often just plain annoying. The only three I could really bear were “Summer Nights,” “Greased Lightning,” and the theme song by Frankie Valli. Frankie has yet to disappoint. Those who don’t usually enjoy musical theatre usually state something along the lines of “when you want the story to get going, some character starts bursting into song.” Watching this movie, I started to understand this perspective much more.
There are so many songs that just come out of nowhere for no real purpose. It gets to a point where there is more singing than there is actual story. I’m sure if the characters stopped singing every five minutes, the movie could fit in a “Romeo and Juliet” kind of arc between Danny and Sandy, instead of the god-awfully lazy arc that plagues this trainwreck of a film. It just gets to a point where the songs aren’t fun. They’re just a waste of time.
Many of those who enjoy the film have told me to simply ignore its themes. However, I am not going to do so. You can’t watch a movie and ignore its themes. That’s what makes the movie. It’s what the movie wants you to take away from the experience. So, no, I refuse to ignore the themes. In fact, I’m going to go ahead and take a second to talk about just how absolutely disgusting they are.
Over the course of the movie, how much does Danny change? He joins track, and that’s about it. However, he feels like he “deserves” Sandy. Despite the fact that he is absolutely awful to her whenever they’re together. We’re still supposed to believe that Danny “deserves” this woman. Even worse, we’re supposed to believe that Sandy “deserves” this disgusting excuse for a man. She should change literally every single aspect of herself, in order to appease this abusive man’s desires. Even for the time it was released, this is just absolutely atrocious.
It is actually quite rare that a movie comes along that I genuinely despise to this degree. I do not consider myself to be a very hateful person. However, this film just feels like a spit-in-the-face to just about everything. The existence of “Grease” as a film just feels rude. Rude to women, rude to the very idea of the movie musical, and rude to the viewer.