Jumat, 19 November 2010

John Waters - Hairspray (1988)

'Hairspray,' Comedy From John Waters
The concept of Smell-o-Vision never really took hold in America's movie theaters, but it's very nearly a reality in John Waters's ''Hairspray.'' During this bright, bouncy film's opening montage of early 60's teen-agers preparing their coiffures for a television dance program, it's almost possible to sniff the huge clouds of poison they spray onto their teased, empty heads. Such is the realism of ''Hairspray,'' which is hardly the only film to recapture this period (roughly that of ''American Graffiti'') but may be the worst looking. That - a merry cavalcade of the period's most authentically awful props, fads and textiles - appears to be exactly what Mr. Waters was after.

''Hairspray,'' which opens today at Loews New York Twin and other theaters, is the work of Mr. Waters at his most goofily benign. This time, the director of ''Pink Flamingos'' and ''Female Trouble'' has no need to deliberately offend, since the characters and costumes of ''Hairspray'' so handily do the job for him. There's no shade of mustard or chartreuse too awful to be re-created here, no figure of teen-age speech too stupid, no fad too trendy. (Assiduously doing the Mashed Potato is these kids' most thoughtful endeavor.) All of this gives ''Hairspray'' its own brand of hair-raising fun.

Mr. Waters isn't exactly a storyteller, but this isn't a film that depends on plot. All it's about is the rise to glory of Tracy Turnblad (Ricki Lake), a cheerful, overweight, bubbly teen who becomes a star on the ''Corny Collins Show.'' (As Corny, Shawn Thompson has a very Dick Clark-like aplomb.) Once she wows the kids with her dancing talent, Tracy becomes the arch enemy of a blonde named Amber Von Tussle (Colleen Fitzpatrick), who's afraid Tracy may hurt her chances of becoming Miss Auto Show. Each of these girls has stage parents, with Sonny Bono and Debbie Harry aiding Amber's cause and, on Tracy's side, Jerry Stiller and the incomparable Divine.

As Tracy's mother, Divine barges through the film in a housedress and pin-curls, looking something like a wildly dressed refrigerator but sounding a lot more amusing. Divine also has another, smaller role, this time as the bigoted man who runs the television station that airs Corny's show. (In a man's suit, Divine manages to look only half-dressed.) One of the film's preoccupations is with the incipient civil-rights movement, with Tracy eventually leading a campaign to help integrate the ''Corny Collins Show,'' which depends heavily on the music of black artists but refuses to allow black teens to dance on camera. However, Mr. Waters's general facetiousness creates such an odd mood in which to air these issues that this aspect of the story simply misfires.

So do such brainstorms as casting Pia Zadora in a beatnik's role, when the film sends Tracy and her friends a brief glimpse of the avant-garde in Baltimore (where the story takes place). And so do those performers who, like Miss Harry, make the mistake of camping it up in Mr. Waters's earlier style. This film is sillier, more ebullient and more innocent than that, without an overtly tongue-in-cheek manner. It isn't exactly deadpan, but it's a wildly colorful celebration of this bygone era, not simply a send-up.

The actors are best when they avoid exaggeration and remain weirdly sincere. That way, they do nothing to break the vibrant, even hallucinogenic spell of Mr. Waters's nostalgia.
Janet Maslin, NY Times, February 26, 1988

no pass

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