The Golden Globes announced their nominees today and I was shocked and dismayed to see John Travolta's name listed in the Supporting Actor category for his role as Edna Turnblad in this summer's neutered Hairspray musical.
Are Death? & I the only people that hated this movie? I thought it was terrible, they butchered the original movie and they butchered the stage musical. I've never seen the stage version but Death? has and she said that they changed details to give it a much more squeaky clean plot that avoids some of the more thorny, interesting issues. And I believe her. Just one listen to the soundtrack and you can tell that they bailed out on some of the more important topics to attract more pre-teen, Zac Efron loving, Disney kids.
And one of those topics is Edna Turnblad. Travolta played her character in a way that didn't do Divine or Harvey Fierstein or Edna Turnblad justice. The point of Edna is that she's a big, ugly, frumpy woman who has given up and is scared of how the world views her and she projects those fears onto her daughter Tracey, who has no such hangups. The rejection of herself as a scared, worthless, frumpy housewife and her transformation into a strong, confident in herself, diva is one of the more important themes of the original movie and the stage show.
Travolta didn't understand the character and at his insistence, he turned Edna into a woman that isn't that far off looks-wise from some bigger women that all of us know. Other than the horrible job they did with the eyes of the fat suit, Travolta was never ugly nor frumpy nor that terribly big. And he played her as a wide-eyed, naive, practically retarded woman that looks on in amazement and wonder as she gets dragged along with Tracey. There is no tension between the two, there is no fight in Edna, and the transformation is too easy, too simple, too willing and loses all of it's originally intended meaning.
And then there's the voice. Travolta's sorry attempt at a woman's voice is half of what makes his version of Edna so insulting. He goes with a meek, un-authoritative, disingenuous, I'm-a-man-doing-a-woman's-voice-how-cute, voice. Divine and Harvey Fierstein didn't have to do a voice. They spoke as themselves, as Edna Turnblad. And it was believable, it fit the character, it fit who she was all along. The voice was as important to the character as any of the fat rolls or the frumpiness. But Travolta's voice is just there. It's weak and is another indication that Travolta never understood who he was playing.
What is this obsession with Travolta? He has proven himself over and over again as a hack that happens to get lucky every now and then. His stinkers far outweigh his successes and nobody owes him anything. A fading star in the gimic role of wearing a fat suit to play a female should not warrant an automatic nomination when there were so many other deserving actors snubbed in favor of this abomination.
Travolta does not deserve to win this award and did not deserve to even be nominated. How in the world could he be nominated over No Country For Old Men's Tommy Lee Jones or Josh Brolin? Even co-star Christopher Walken deserved it more for his portrayal of Wilbur Turnblad.
But Travolta? Anybody but Travolta.