"Height of Decadence"
A realistic portrayal of the New York disco scene in the late 1970s, 54 tells the story of the downfall of the owner of the notorious Studio 54, played well by Mike Myers in his first dramatic role. It presents a plethora of hedonistic behaviors amidst a chaotic atmosphere. Although consequences are shown for some of the destructive behaviors and a main character realizes the immorality of the hedonistic lifestyle.
Mark Christopher makes his feature film debut with 54; a realistic depiction of the notorious 1979 New York night club. The story is told through the eyes of 19-year-old, Shane O’Shea (Ryan Phillipe) whose dream of getting into Club 54 comes true.
Coming from a working class family in Jersey City, Shane is picked out of a screaming crowd in front of the club by entrepreneur Steve Rubell, played by Mike Myers, who finds Shane to be very attractive. As Shane enters this new world, the audience is transported to a place of pure decadence where alcohol, drugs and sex are readily available and plentiful.
The uniqueness of Studio 54 is manifested in the diversity of people that frequent it. Looking around, one finds blue collar workers, celebrities, political figures, and grandmothers. Within its walls, fantasy becomes reality, rules don’t exist, and labels are left behind. The alcohol flows freely, drugs are available at the snap of a finger, and sex is openly accessible. The music is loud and reflective of the disco era, accompanied by strobe lights.
Shane quickly gets swallowed up by the club’s influence and becomes a regular. Addicted to the excitement generated by the club, Shane applies for a busboy position and becomes an employee. He is quickly promoted to bartender, an enviable position at the night spot. He becomes very close to one of the busboys, Greg, and his wife, Anita, who is a coat check girl aspiring to be a singer.
Mike Myers, in his dramatic debut, turns in a brilliant performance as Studio 54’s co-owner, Steve Rubell. His drug-induced behaviors are played naturally and seem effortless by Myers. Ryan Phillippe (last seen in HOMEGROWN) gives credibility to the character of Shane; an ordinary 19-year-old seeking excitement and independence. Eighty-two-year-old Ellen Dow, remembered for her performance in THE WEDDING SINGER, gives a great performance as Disco Granny.
54 is a movie for people who are interested in the story behind this famed studio. It definitely paints a realistic picture of this internationally well-known club of the disco era. A replica of Studio 54 was constructed on a soundstage in Toronto’s Conespace complex; constituting 85% of the original’s size.
Regrettably, other than this slice of history; this film offers nothing uplifting or edifying. It presents a plethora of hedonistic behaviors amidst a chaotic atmosphere. A redeeming factor, however, is that consequences are shown for some of the destructive behaviors, such as Steve Rubell getting caught for tax evasion. Also, Shane eventually realizes that he does not want to compromise himself in order to attain wealth and power.
(Pa, B, Re, LLL, SS, NN, AAA, DDD, Ho, M) Pagan worldview with pagan characters with a very minor theme of moral redemption; 31 obscenities; no violence; nightclub scenes of men & women dancing & flirting & one scene depicting couple having sex on the balcony of the club with other couples' engaging in same activity implied; upper female nudity & rear male nudity; many scenes of people drinking, including some scenes of drunkenness; drug use depicted & implied; man propositions other men using homosexual innuendo; and, tax evasion & callous disregard for human life.