No 444 - Hairspray
Director - John Waters
At long fucking last! I had vague memories of a film in which a bomb was hidden in a wig. I watched it when very young and that moment was all I remembered. I should have realised it would be Hairspray.... John Waters is, after all, the batshit crazy king of very dark and filthy humour.
Before we go on. Can I just say how much I love John Waters. I mean, with his slicked back hair and his tiny thin moustache he kinda looks like a dapper paedophile from the 20's. But he is so sleazily cool.
Considering I can't think of John Waters without thinking of Pink Flamingos (or Selma Blair with insane breasts) I'm surprised by quite how sweet this film is. I think the main thing is that this is set in the early 60's - before Beatlemania and when we still enjoying the early days of Rock and Roll and riding the wave of the 50's. This means we get some excellent music, clothes and cars in bubblegum vibrant colour. It is Americana.
However, the film also conveys the darker message of the time... the message of segregation. What is great is that it uses the story of Tracy Turnblad and the story of racial inequality to put a wonderful spin on a really old moral. That it doesn't matter what you look like, it is what is inside that counts.
So the issues of racial segregation is a more heightened example of the bullying Tracy gets for being 'pleasantly plump' - and the film is about overcoming that negative attitude and loving people for who they are.
Now I love the remake - because, shame facedly, I love musicals.... but, good as Nikki Blonsky is, she isn't a patch on Ricki Lake who owns the part. She is absolutely spot on perfect and exudes a body confidence throughout that makes her eminently watchable. It also means that the 'pretty boy falls for overweight girl' aspect to the story isn't at all unbelievable. Tracy is cool - she could have any man she wanted, and she knows that. Incidentally - I think Michael St Gerard got the Link Larkin role because he looks like a pretty famous pin up of the time.
The crux of the film is a TV show called The Corny Collins Show - which is a dance show and which Tracy manages to become their newest dancing star, thus angering her rival the blonde and vacuous Amber Von Tussle.
However, the show's real issue is that it is a segregated show - and so the film's real story is how a small bunch of teenagers manage to change the structure of an institutional TV Show.
The ending is insanely uplifting. Just watching all those people dancing and being happy because of the actions of some children.
Whilst the kids are the stars (and also show some really impressive dance moves) the scene stealers are the parents.
Lets begin with Divine... who plays two roles. Firstly the wonderfully innocent and old fashioned Edna Turnblad (who John Travolta was never going to emulate as well) and then the fabulously cruel Les Patterson-esque TV Station owner, Arvin Hodgepile. It must be great fun to play two characters so diametrically opposed to one another. And while Divine is the scene stealing triumph of the adults (apart from John Water's insane cameo) the others are still excellent. Especially the wonderful Jerry Stiller as Tracy's superkind father and Debbie Harry in the most bonkers wigs as Amanda's Queen-Bitch mother.
Good, silly, campy fun. But hiding an important message about equality and tolerance. Great film.