Monday, 22 June 2015

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 2007: John Travolta in Hairspray

John Travolta did not receive an Oscar nomination, despite being nominated for a Golden Globe, for portraying Edna Turnblad in Hairspray.

Hairspray is a musical I did not mind watching, I guess, about an overweight teen Tracy Turnbald who makes it on a local dance TV show who then becomes a proponent for the racial integration of the show.

John Travolta plays Tracy's mother as the part originated by the drag queen Divine, and then having a man play the role continued on stage, so that's why. It seems fitting enough as a musical dance movie with Travolta's two earliest hits being the musical Grease and the dance centric Saturday Night Fever. Despite the set up, and perhaps the make up being a bit over the top Travolta actually plays the role relatively straight. The voice he uses is a fairly minor adjustment so to speak, and Travolta kinda goes about trying to make Edna a believable enough character actually. It would be easy enough to see the part played in a pretty over the top way, where the whole character could simply be seen as a joke. Travolta takes this fairly unassuming approach to the part and there really is not made much of him playing the part really. He's simply in the role and all of the mannerism and the like he employs all fairly simply though as well being effective in making Edna Turnblad feel like an actual character in the film.

Edna's story is relatively simple as she is hesitant to support Tracy's intentions to become a dance star because of her own issues with her own poor self-esteem. Travolta actually fairly moving in portraying the vulnerability of Edna as she expresses her concerns about Tracy's prospects. The film though kinda ping pongs Edna though as she'll be down quickly brought back up, then have something else to challenge her self-esteem once again. These are all fairly abrupt and to the point in the turnaround, and in typical musical fashion many are handled through a musical number. Travolta both ends admirably enough though in giving an honest to the hesitations then the right earnest passion whenever Edna gains her self respect again. In addition Travolta brings a certain sweetness to the role that works quite well as Edna becomes more supportive of her daughters efforts, particularly late in the film when she has to become particularly active to help her daughter succeed.

As a musical there are of course musical sequences, and if one where expecting the sort of energy shown by Travolta in Grease they be a bit disappointed. Travolta's delivery and even dancing in the numbers he takes part in he again stays rather modest in his performance. This is not a criticism though because Travolta very much stays with his character when he does this, and in his performances Travolta does get across the feeling of each number that Edna is a part of. Really I'd say Travolta gives a good performance here entirely by trying to realize Edna as more than a caricature, which the part very easily could have been all things considered. I suppose my only complaint, and not a real complaint so to speak, is that I suppose to love this performance by any means. I do like him here, particularly because he does succeed in making more out of the part than being a simple gimmick. It's a fine performance I'm not going to call it a great performance, but I certainly had no problems with it.


Calvin Law said...

Thoughts and ratings on the rest of the cast? Glad you liked him :)

luke higham said...


Matt Mustin said...

Yeah, he's fun. The movie really surprised me on the whole, because I thought I would *hate* it but I ended up really enjoying it.

luke higham said...

Louis: Please let me win both, Please let me win both.
Don't forget, I switched my 4th and 5th on the second prediction on the Gone Baby Gone review.

luke higham said...

Louis: I have Travolta at 4th and Freeman at 5th.

Robert MacFarlane said...

Well I probably won at least one of them. Time to watch obscure indie/foreign fare for a good request.

luke higham said...

Robert: Well, we all know which two performances are going to win the predictions.

Michael McCarthy said...

Yeah I figured after Freeman's review that he'd be last, but I kept them as they were out of protest.

Michael Patison said...

Actually really really enjoy this movie. That being said, I don't find Travolta to be anything all that special.

Michael McCarthy said...

Also, I just felt like sharing that I played Wilbur in a production of Hairspray when I was 16 and Edna was played by a 50 year old man.

Calvin Law said...

My recommendations, ratings included:


Tatsuya Nakadai in Ran (5)
Mickey Rourke in Year of the Dragon
Eric Stoltz in Mask
James Mason in The Shooting Party (4.5)

Ian Holm in Dreamchild (4.5)/Wetherby
Chris Sarandon (4)/Roddy McDowall (4) in Fright Night
Daniel Day-Lewis in My Beautiful Laundrette (4.5)


Benicio Del Toro in The Wolfman (4)
Tahar Rahim in A Prophet

Michael Shannon in The Runaways (4)
Brendan Gleeson in Perrier's Bounty (4)
Jim Broadbent in Perrier's Bounty (4)

Calvin Law said...


luke higham said...

Calvin: Del Toro was just okay I guess and Un Prophete is 2009 by Louis's rules (Belgium)

Robert MacFarlane said...

Pretty much every performance reviewed here got the ratings I thought Louis would give them. That rarely happens.

Louis Morgan said...


Blonsky - 3(She's just fine. I mean she brings certainly enough enthusiasm to the role, but I don't think she ever becomes quite as endearing as the film wants her to be)

Pfeiffer - 3.5(Ah the one film where you get the stars of Grease and Grease 2. Anyway Pfeiffer does the obvious villain routine quite well herself. She's enjoyably devious and has just enough fun with the role)

Marsden - 2.5(He suits the needs of the part but does not do much more than that)

Walken - 3(Walken's also pretty low key here, although still rather off-beat. He's good though)