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Festivale online magazine, May-June, 1998
Grease movie review

I had been looking forward to seeing the re-release of Grease. Like most people who'd been around for its original release in 1978 I'd owned a copy of the soundtrack and played it to death, singing along and learning it by heart. I was fourteen when I saw it, and I'd loved the music and the dancing and the excitement of it all. I wondered if it would be as good as I remembered, particularly as it's now nostalgia-once-removed - part of the 70s retro revival of a film that was, in the 70s, part of a 50s revival.

It is. The music is still great, the dancing is still brilliant, the energy and pace are still there. But I noticed a lot of stuff this time around which I never saw when I was fourteen.

Grease movie poster, Festivale movie review

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I never thought how out-of-stereotype is was to have a female mechanics teacher and a sensitive athletics coach.

I never noticed that the boys talked about breasts and sex so much. It never really twigged that Rizzo and Kenickie had actually had sex in the back of his car, and I had wondered, at fourteen, why everyone thought Rizzo was so awful for having gone necking with the guy.

I didn't notice at the time how, despite the conventions of a musical, the characters were actually very real, very raw and vulgar and vulnerable.

So, not noticing any of this at the time, I'd never realised how strange the ending is.

Musicals have their conventions, and it's understood that it all happens in a fantasy world where people get upset about things and, instead of crying about it, they sing. Even in a musical fantasy world, however, there is consistency. Within its context, 'Grease' deals with teenage posturing, first loves, the pain of being the new kid on the block, teenage pregnancy, jealousy and how people can be willing to change themselves for love. Real things in an unreal world.

And then suddenly... it's the end of the school year, and everything works out, like a fairy tale. Rizzo has had a false alarm and reconciles with Kenickie, all the friends from that last year in high school swear they'll "Always Be Together" and at the end Danny and Sandy drive off in a flash car which takes off into the clouds. Given the earlier grounding in almost-reality, the complete abandonment of more serious storyline into such complete fantasy is a little weird.

I read an interview recently with one of the writers of the original show who said how much he'd had to clean up the script for it to be made into a musical. I suspect that, try as you might to think of profound reasons for the sudden switch at the ending, it's motivated simply by the need to find a quick happy ending to tack onto all these issues explored in the rest of the film.

But never mind the inconsistencies. Travolta moves like a panther, Newton John sings like an angel, you want to sing along with everyone and all and sundry have a good time.

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See also: Ali's review

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Just the facts:

Title: Grease (1977)
Written by: Bronte Woodard (Screenplay) Adapted by Allan Carr; based on the original musical by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey
Directed by: Randal Kleiser
Produced by:
Edited by: John F. Burnett
Director of Photography: Bill Butler

The Players: Olivia Newton-John, John Travolta, Stockard Channing, Jeff Conaway, Barry Pearl, Dinah Manoff, Eve Arden, Frankie Avalon, Sid Caesar, Alice Ghostley, Sha-na-na, Lorenzo Lamas, Annette Charles
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Festivale Online Magazine
Celebrate everything!

ISSN 1328-8008
Published in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
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: Published in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia : copyright © Festivale 1998 All rights reserved
Filed: 5-May-1998 : Last updated: 9-Jun-1998 : Last tested: 3-Jul-2014: Last Compiled: 3-Jul-2014
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