Grease

Movie: Directed by Randal Kleiser

Inciting Event: Sandy and Danny independently tell their friends about their summer romance with each other, unaware they are now going to the same high school. Rizzo, the leader of the Pink Ladies, who has been pining after Danny herself, realizes what’s going on—setting up the First Plot Point, even though neither Sandy nor Danny understands there is a conflict about to occur.

First Plot Point: Rizzo forces a meeting between Sandy and Danny in front of Danny’s greaser friends. Pressured, he puts on an apathetic front and pretends he doesn’t care about seeing Sandy again. Hurt, she leaves, and he feels terrible. In a great moment, he looks angrily but shame-facedly at Rizzo, knowing what she orchestrated and that he fell right into it.

First Pinch Point: Seeing Sandy out with the star quarterback, Danny tries to apologize, only to have her spurn him and challenge him to do something with himself. He tries out—less than successfully—for a series of sports.

Midpoint: Seeing the effort Danny is making, Sandy relents and they make up. They start going out together, but struggle since Sandy doesn’t fit in, which becomes obvious at the soda shop when the rest of the gang crashes their date.

Second Pinch Point: During the dance competition at school, Danny’s old girlfriend realizes Danny and Sandy are winning and conspires to take Sandy’s place. When Danny just rolls with it instead of rescuing Sandy, she is furious and leaves.

Third Plot Point: At the drive-in, Danny and Sandy experience the “false victory” when Danny gives Sandy his high-school ring, leading her believe he “really respects” her now. When he then attempts to make out, she rejects him again and storms out, emphasizing the seemingly incompatible differences in their expectations.

Climax: Danny races and wins with his friend’s car “Greased Lightning.” Sandy watches from afar, wanting to be there for him and regretting that she doesn’t fit in.

Climactic Moment: After graduation, Sandy dresses like a greaser’s girl (and Danny proves that he lettered in track), and they resolve their differences and get back together.

Resolution: Sandy, Danny, and their friends sing about always being in each other’s lives, even after graduation.

Notes: This is not a tightly plotted movie, nor does it ever aspire to be. But note how, even in a story of this type, all the important structural moments are solidly there, providing a backbone for all the episodic snapshots of life as a 1950s teenager.

Rizzo’s subplot is the weakest part of the movie. It’s set up strongly with her as an antagonistic force with a strong motive, but that approach is never paid off in the end.

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