Hairspray (1988)

<strong class="MovieTitle">Hairspray</strong> (1988)

(In French, On Cable TV, January 2019) I haven’t seen as many John Waters movies as I’d like yet, but I like what I’ve seen so far, and Hairspray seems to package his iconoclastic outlook in a very audience-friendly package. Set in early-1960s Baltimore, it focuses on a curvy teenager (play by the very cute Rikki Lake) who comes to compete against more conventionally beautiful girls in a dance pageant and break down the city’s racial segregation. The square targets are broad and easy, but the film does have an exaggerated fun factor clearly crossing over in camp aesthetics. Breaking from his most transgressive fare, Waters here offers a slightly subversive look at an earlier generation in the form of a musical comedy. The music is quite good, and the white perspective means that Hairspray is accessible to a very wide audience that can laugh at the heavy-handed racism. (It does remain aimed at a white audience, though—fine for the 1980s, maybe a bit limited in the 2010s.) It’s simply a lot of fun, and the good music means that it’s got replay value as well.

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