at Brooklyn College with Professor Jennifer Ball

Film Review: Grease (1978)


Grease (1978) Directed by Randal Kleiser Shown in foreground from left: Jeff Conaway, Olivia Newton-John, John Travolta, Stockard Channing

With the recent broadcasting of Grease: Live, the 1970’s classic Grease has been all the talk. This iconic musical turned movie, opens up with upbeat music by Franki Valli, music that many consider the soundtrack to their childhood. Tracks like “Summer Loving” and “Hopelessly Devoted to You” help set the mood of the movie as we see a teenage love story unwind amongst drama and rivalry. Set in a the 50’s, the movie’s first scene shows its two main characters Sandy Olsen (played by Olivia Newton-John) and Danny Zuko (played by John Travolta) on a beach date. Near the end of that scene, Sandy, an Australian teenager, tells Danny with great disappointment that she will be going back to Australia as summer ends. Danny reassures her that that summer will not be the end of their relationship, but that its just the beginning. Consequently, this scene immediately jumps into the opening credits and upbeat music. The play on words recited by John Travolta at the end of the beach scene was a clever way to start the movie. Clearly, Danny refers to his summer romance not ending, but also to the beginning of the movie, this jump cut effortlessly introduces the movie, leaving the watcher anticipating what is to come.

To compliment the 50’s greaser vibe of this movie, Director Randal Kleiser and screenwriters, Bronte Woodard and Allan Carr, revolve the movie around the T-birds, Pink Ladies and later Scorpios, all local gangs. As summer ends and class begins at Rydell high school, Sandy does not go back to her country, she coincidently, starts school at the same one Danny attends. Not knowing that each other goes to the same school Sandy befriends the Pink Ladies. The Pink Ladies are the female counterpart to Danny’s gang, the T-birds. Since Sandy has befriended girls close to the T-birds news travels and her new friends introduce her to Danny again. Once they meet he tries to brush her off to impress his friends making Sandy run off in tears. This starts Danny’s journey to win Sandy back while he also struggles to keep his bad boy image.

Grease has been seen as one of the greatest musical based movies by fans and critics for good reason. Categorized as comedy musical/teen film, Grease reaches larger audiences than most movies. Characters like Sonny, Putzie and Doody (t-bird members) provide comedic relief when needed. For example, at the televised school prom the three t-bird members moon the cameras while the track “Blue Moon” plays in the background. This scene is not only clever, but much needed because moments before Danny is pulled away from Sandy leaving her confused and heartbroken. The juxtaposition of the scenes advances the plot while keeping the watcher entertained. Additionally, Grease also appeals to action lovers, during the movie there is a gang rivalry between the T-birds and the Scorpios. To settle the rivalry Danny and Leo (Scorpios gang leader) have a race. Moreover, the movie is relatable to most teens. Grease not only talks about puppy love but also about sexuality and teen pregnancy. Every character has such a unique personality that you are bound to see yourself in one of them. Likewise, because the movie is so relatable you find yourself rooting for the characters and their relationships.

Grease has also become a huge success partially because of John Travolta’s leading role. The complicated dance moves he performs elevate the movie to grandeur. Although, if I had to critic one thing about this movie it would be the age of the actors. Most of the cast play high school teenagers, but the majority of the cast looks to be in their mid 20s. Although, this does throw the movie off a little, I don’t mind it because the acting skills of all the actors is exquisite. I say this because the actors and actresses in this movie not only act, they dance and sing as well. All of the actors accomplish this effortlessly. To add, the outstanding feature of this movie is the music, Sandy’s voice, among others is simply angelic. The way the actors sing the songs with such emotion makes the watcher want to sing along, because the movie is able to accomplish this, the watcher feels like they are part of the movie. The story becomes more than just a movie.

Furthermore, although there were multiple climactic scenes the most memorable one was the end scene. Danny cleans up his image and proves his love to Sandy and that he has changed his. The track “You’re the One That I Want” gives the watcher what they all have been hoping for, the main characters get back together. To add, not only is the scene beautifully choreographed, the tracks are super catchy and we see the most growth in the characters. Sandy transforms from a super innocent teen to a greasers dream chick, in the complete opposite manner Danny cleans his acts and image. Grease is not only worth seeing for nostalgia, but because both the plot and soundtrack are top notch. That is why I would give this movie a 5/5 and would recommend that everyone watches it at least once if not more.

-Kimberly Calderon

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