Daily Archives: March 4, 1988

Waters in the Mainstream

This is a review of the John Waters original (1988) — not the Adam Shankman remake (2007) derived from the Broadway musical, which I haven’t seen. Thanks to the seeming omnipresence of the latter, I originally found it very difficult to find any stills from the former on the Internet. My review appeared in the March 4, 1988 issue of the Chicago Reader. Today I persist in thinking that America would be a better place if John Waters were hosting The Tonight Show. — J.R.

HAIRSPRAY

*** (A must-see)

Directed and written by John Waters

With Ricki Lake, Divine, Leslie Ann Powers, Colleen Fitzpatrick, Ruth Brown, Sonny Bono, Debbie Harry, and Shawn Thompson.

madison-time-hairspray-1988

As John Waters is the first to point out, Hairspray is “a satire of the two most dreaded film genres today — the ‘teen flick’ and the ‘message movie.’” But one of the nicest things about this exhilarating, good-natured pop comedy is that it actually is both a teen flick and a message movie. Satirical or not, it redeems as well as revitalizes both genres while celebrating their excesses.

This downscale, urban Dirty Dancing is a cunning crossover maneuver that opens as many doors to the mainstream audience as Waters can reach for, urging black and white, fat and skinny, blue collar and white collar, and generations some 25 years apart to join in the festive euphoria.… Read more »

The House on Carroll Street

Peter Yates, a craftsmanlike director who is generally at the mercy of his scripts, does a creditable job with a romantic thriller screenplay by former blacklisted writer Walter Bernstein (The Front), set in 1951 during the height of the cold war witch-hunts, which is strong in charm and period flavor but relatively weak in motivations. Aiming for an overall Hitchcockian ambience without the master’s undertow of guilt, the film makes pleasant use of Kelly McGillis as a witch-hunt victim who turns amateur sleuth, and Jeff Daniels (The Purple Rose of Cairo) as an FBI agent who befriends her; also on hand are Jessica Tandy, and an especially effective Mandy Patinkin as the sweet-talking cold warrior villain. Michael Ballhaus shot the film, and Georges Delerue handled the score. Nothing very profound emerges from the mixture, but this is still a rather stylish and sincere entertainment that passes the time agreeably. (Edens, Oakbrook Center, Water Tower)… Read more »