So what if someone made a fat acceptance/racial integration 60's bubblegum-pop musical? Let's just say I'm so there. Or more exactly, I WAS so there. Connecticut Bob and Slim let us know that One in Ten was having an advance screening of Hairspray that the Arlington Cinema Drafthouse. The cheesy, wall mural of carpet ambiance of the Drafthouse was perfect to see Hairspray. Even better was having a crowd that was ready to love the movie. Because of the 6:30 pm opening (for a 7:30 pm movie start time), there were no drag queens in full regalia. All of the people dressed up for the contest were WOMEN. And a girl who was clearly aiming to go play Tracy on Broadway completely won the contest and the hearts of the audience. This was the first time in YEARS that J and I were in all Gay boy company with Slim, CT Bob, and their friend Smokey.
On a food note, while the food at the Drafthouse is a slight step above movie food, the drinks are really lovely. We all had the cosmopolitans and they were very tasty. On the food front, we did order pizza, nachos, cheese fries, and potato skins so it's not like we were aiming for the stars there.
So how was the movie? So good that I am fuming about the fact I can't download the soundtrack on itunes. This is a movie that knows what it is. And what it is is 2 hours of fun. For a movie about fat acceptance and racial integration, it wasn't a statement movie. The pacing and direction moved merrily along. The music was crazily catchy (hence the anger about no soundtrack) with no Oscar-bait power ballads (we're looking at you Dreamgirls!). Here is a musical that isn't ashamed to be a big, fun musical comedy. It starts with Tracy bopping through the streets of Baltimore (complete with rats) sing the opening number. This movie may be the reason I will see Knocked Up because here is a movie where big girl Tracy Turnblad gets the dreamboat without undergoing a makeover, apologizing for her weight, or having the movie portray the romance as Linc doing her a big favor. I want to use the line from the closing song "you can't stop my happiness, because I like the way I am" as my epitaph.
Best of all the cast was uniformly excellent with one HUUUUUUUUGE exception. Sorry to disappoint the John Travolta fans out there but he was just off. The performance seemed to be blunted by the layers of latex. And while the role was screaming for high camp, he seemed to be playing a drag queen as opposed to BEING a drag queen BEING a 60's housewife. He did come to life in the song and dance numbers but they were few and far between for the Edna character.
This was brought in huge relief by the boatloads of charisma radiating from almost every other member of the cast. The two revelations were James Marsden as Corny Collins and Michele Pfieffer as Velma Von tussle. Who knew that James Marsden could sing and dance like like the 50's style non-bloated Elvis. It's clear he's relishing this role and makes the most of it. Where has Michele Pfieffer been all these years? With Velma Ton Tussle she's found a role where she can chew on scenery as if it were a $2.99 buffet as the Mirage. The over the top campy acting is precisely right the Hairspray and she really buoys every scene she's in. Nice to see she brought her A game.
No review would be complete without singing the praises of Nikki Blonsky as Tracy. She makes a believable, unself-pitying Tracy who really does light up every room she's in. Her singing and dancing is top notch and she really carries the movie. Here's hoping that Hollywood will know what to do with her.