Hairspray (1988) A
Waters flirted with the mainstream with Hairspray, his first film in seven years, and, by his admission, one of few obsessions that was "palatable" to any studio. He altered his style with a musical comedy which gathered faded stars and offbeat celebrities for campy pursuits.
Rated PG, the film was suitable family fare, despite the weird hairdos. The lavish $2.6 million budget for Hairspray brought about major changes: It allowed for cappuccino in the editing room, Waters didn't have to pick up the cast in the morning, and when it rained the cast got ponchos.
Based on an essay that appeared in one of Waters' books, the film dissects the arrival of racial integration in 1960s Baltimore through a local dance program, "The Corny Collins Show." In the surprisingly sweet-tempered spoof, Ricki Lake plays Tracy Turnblad, a chubby teen who rockets to stardom as the new queen of a TV dance show. In addition to Divine, who plays two roles, Tracy's mom and a nasty male TV station owner, the film featured Palm Springs mayor Sonny Bono and pop star Debbie Harry.
Hairspray is more than a nostalgic romp filled with ratted hairdos and goofy hits–its key subplot reveals Waters' obsession with the incendiary politics of style. When Tracy is radicalized by the all-white policy, she doesn't join the Weatherman, she start ironing her hair. "When the straight-hair fashion first hit our neighborhood, it caused panic," Waters recalled.
The film is based on his experiences watching and occasionally appearing on "The Buddy Deane Show." "Your whole values changed: Hair was politics. If you had ironed hair, you became a hippie. And if you kept your teased hair, you got married at 20 and had four kids."
Released by New Line, the movie was well received by critics and audiences, grossing $3.2 million at the box-office.
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