Even at almost 20 years of age, Hairspray (1988) still has tanginess. It's not just a memorial to the more berserk dance crazes of the early 1960s, but to the social mobility that these shows helped bring in. John Water's solvent-intoxicated film concerns Baltimore's Tracy Turnblatt (Rikki Lake), high-haired and pleasantly plump daughter of the owner (Jerry Stiller) of the Hardy-Har joke shop. While her dad sells silly putty and itch powder, her mother Edna irons like there's no tomorrow. It's a fine last performance by Glenn "Divine" Milstead, as a grouchy mother bewildered by all this rock and roll racket. Here was a slow burn worthy of W. C. Fields, Pauline Kael marveled. (Divine has a dual role, playing the racist TV station owner; in male clothes and slicked comb-over, he looks strangely like an over-inflated version of Baltimore local hero H. L. Mencken.)
categories Cinematical