The first time I saw Grease (1978), I was around eight or nine years-old (I don’t remember the details, but I was pretty young). I was young enough to be scared of the animated theme song that played in the beginning of the movie. Thanks to The Wiggles and their horrible animated films/clips, I developed a fear of animation. To add onto that, the drawings representing the main cast weren’t exactly appealing to look at (refer to Rizzo down below as an example), and the theme song was so loud and overwhelming. I got over my fear when I started high school and I managed to watch the entire movie for the first time ever without running to my room while the theme song/opening credits played.
Because I’ve seen this movie so many times, it is so nostalgic for me. The more I’ve watched Grease, the more I’ve picked up on some of the lines in the film. One line that stands out to me occurs during a scene at the dance, when Frenchy asks Doody how she looks. He responds by saying, “Like a beautiful, blonde pineapple!” That line gets me every time. There’s also that scene at school, where Marty asks the girls if they think she looks smarter with her new glasses, and Rizzo responds with, “Nah, I can still see your face!” Then there’s that scene at Frenchy’s house where Danny says he’s not interested in “sloppy seconds,” referring to Rizzo, but we’re getting ahead of ourselves.
Despite how awesome Grease is, some aspects of the film leave me very confused. First of all, it was implied that Danny and Rizzo had a thing in the past, when she referred to their relationship as “ancient history.” Of course, there’s also that scene where she reunites Danny and Sandy after the pep rally, where Danny was forced to remain in his bad-boy persona, hurting Sandy’s feelings, and leaving Rizzo satisfied. The movie didn’t exactly explain the seriousness behind Danny and Rizzo’s relationship, or if it was just Rizzo that liked Danny, but he didn’t feel the same way.
Danny also had a relationship with Cha-Cha, as implied by the scene at the dance where they meet again and she greets him by saying, “How you doing, Zuko, baby?” She even stole him away from Sandy during the dance contest, just cause she was jealous and wanted to win the trophy. What I don’t get is, how did they know each other if they went to different schools? But also, where was Leo, Cha-Cha’s boyfriend, when they were on the dance floor together? It’s like he left the dance after Rizzo left him behind; Cha-Cha never bothered to tell him what happened, and they acted like everything was fine when they later appeared at Thunder Road.
Another thing that irritates me (and confuses me) about Grease is how fast the school year goes by. After the “Summer Nights” scene, Sandy tells the Pink Ladies that Danny was the boy she spent all summer with, then it jumps to the pep rally scene and all of a sudden, Sandy is a cheerleader after being at Rydell High for only a day. At the slumber party, Frenchy announces that she’s dropping out of Rydell to go to beauty school and then not long afterwards, she tells the waitress at the diner that she dropped out of that too. Everything just happened so fast with Danny and Sandy making up on the track field, they go to the dance together, Rizzo (almost) gets pregnant, and then it’s the last day of school. It was very confusing to watch what I thought was the days go by, when the movie really depicted an entire school year. If there was at least a montage depicting the days of the school year flying by, that would’ve been nice.
However, nothing confuses me more than the makeover scene at the end of the movie. At a young age, I thought that they brought in another actress to play the sexy Sandy because I couldn’t recognize the original actress with curly hair and fancy makeup. But it also left me wondering what the message of the film was; do you have to change your appearance to get the guy? Yeah, Danny made an effort to change first by joining the track team in order to become a jock, but he still kept his greasy hair and bad boy persona. Let’s not forget that he didn’t want to be seen in public with Sandy because it’d ruin his reputation. Once Sandy revamped her look, Danny got rid of his new letterman jacket and remained as the greaser he always was.
I’ll admit, Danny liked Sandy before she became sexy, but he didn’t show his affection for her in front of his friends because again, he had a reputation to protect. He was quite harsh to Sandy at times. He acted like a jerk to her at the pep rally, he rejected Sandy’s invitation to have tea with her parents, and he forced himself on her at their drive-in movie date. Sandy, on the other hand, gave up her innocence and purity to win over Danny’s heart. She even learned how to smoke cigarettes for him, which I get because of the times, but still, no guy is worth risking your lungs for. I wish Danny stood up to the T-Birds and dropped his greaser image sooner because he clearly was a sensitive guy, but he was afraid to show it to his friends. He was really sweet to Sandy when they were alone together (excuse the drive-in movie scene), but Sandy deserved so much better.
Now that I got all the negatives off my chest, let me talk about the positives. First of all, the songs are freaking catchy! But not all of them came from the original musical. According to Biography, out of the four big hits that topped the Billboard charts, only “Summer Nights” came from the original Broadway production. “Grease,” “You’re the One That I Want,” and “Hopelessly Devoted to You” were written specifically for the movie. Not that I’m complaining because I love the latter two tracks, along with “Greased Lightnin’” and “Summer Nights.”
Another positive is that I grew to appreciate Rizzo’s character development as I got older. At the beginning of the film, she was portrayed as the leader of the Pink Ladies who was rude and heartless at times, but over the course of the film, the audience sees her feelings and sensitive side. After her on-and-off again relationship with Kenickie, she faces the possibility of becoming a teen mom. When word gets out at school, people are talking behind her back, and Sandy is the only one to show sympathy for her. As a result, Rizzo warms up to Sandy and sings her heart out about her fears for the world and that there are worse things she could do in life. Quoted in The Mary Sue, “As we learn over the course of Grease (most poignantly through her song “There Are Worse Things I Could Do”), she [Rizzo] resents the hypocrisy of the society in which she lives, calling out the fact that her behavior is considered “depraved” when others (usually men and the “good girls” created for them) get away with doing things that are much worse.”
This quote reminded of another movie that dealt with greasers and the higher class people, The Outsiders (1983), where the greasers were misunderstood and looked down upon by the rest of society. The author of the source may be onto something as the Pink Ladies and the T-Birds had their groups on the side, and never really socialized with people from outside of their cliques. Grease took place in the 50s, so it was a weird time because people who were different and rebellious were considered outcasts. The T-Birds and Pink Ladies had reputations to protect, and they felt threatened when an obstacle came in their way.
Referring back to The Outsiders, nobody seemed to care when a Soc pulled a blade on Ponyboy, yet it was such a big deal when Johnny killed a Soc, which completely overshadowed the fact that the Socs were trying to drown Ponyboy in the first place. But that was the thing back in the 50s/60s; people of high society were the norm and they got away with more things.
Though the movie was fast-paced, I still love the execution of the scenes, especially the music scenes. The “Greased Lightnin” scene is still one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen, especially when Danny slides under the car and he enters this dream-like sequence with a white background. The scene for “You’re the One that I Want” is so iconic when Sandy enters with her new look, Danny is speechless, the song begins, and they jump on this shaking machine at the carnival. The energy for the dance contest scene is infectious and so many things are happening that it takes more than one watch to get a feel of what’s going on. The last scene, however, when Danny and Sandy drive off into the sky is questionable because that can’t happen in real life (cars don’t fly, hello!).
Other than the film depicting an unrealistically fast high school year, the uncertain message for the film, and that the actors were way too old to play high schoolers, I still enjoy Grease for what it is. Coming out in the late 70s, it was a groundbreaking film of it’s time with fun-loving tunes, great laughs, heartwarming moments, and a stud like John Travolta wooing the ladies with his leather jacket; nothing has changed since then. I’d give this film 4 out of 5 stars.
Take care and see ya real soon!