"True Boogie Nights"
THE LAST DAYS OF DISCO traces the lives of two female college graduates who work by day at a publishing firm in New York and disco dance at night. Conversation driven, frequently pretentious, occasionally hilarious, and definitely offbeat, this movie tries a little to hard to be likable and includes sexual situations, drug use and some obscenities.
The final film of writer-director Whit Stillman’s three night life comedies, which include the superb METROPOLITAN and BARCELONA, THE LAST DAYS OF DISCO traces the lives of two female graduates of a prestigious eastern college who work by day at a publishing firm in New York and disco dance at night. Conversation driven, frequently pretentious, occasionally hilarious, and definitely offbeat, this movie tries a little too hard to be likable and ends up merely mildly amusing.
Alice (Chloe Sevigny) and Charlotte (Kate Beckinsale from COLD COMFORT FARM) are recent Hampshire College graduates. At school, they were antagonists, but now they are friends. Charlotte still puts on airs as the better, prettier and more sophisticated of the two. She even states, “I wish I knew you better in college. I could have helped you a lot.” As mere assistants at a publishing firm, they earn mediocre wages and can only afford a railroad apartment (an apartment with no hallways but only doors adjoining narrow rooms). Work is enjoyable, but they live to boogie, and their favorite hole is an unnamed club where a severe doorman only lets in a select few.
Charlotte and Alice know a manager, Des (Chris Eigeman), and he lets them through the back door. Inside, Alice meets Tom (Robert Sean Leonard), a handsome corporate lawyer with an interest in Scrooge McDuck. Charlotte meets Jimmy Steinway, an advertising man who sneaks inside the club. Owner Bernie (David Thornton) says “They’re too nice. I don’t want that element in the club.”
Complications and events unfold when Alice is dumped by Tom because Tom thinks she is a fake, Charlotte has sex with Jimmy, Des discovers Bernie is embezzling money, and Des dumps his girlfriend because he starts to imagine he is homosexual. In-between extensive conversations and situations, there is always disco dancing. Eventually, the group become couples despite the talk of “ferocious paring off.” They soon realize that disco is dying when a group of baseball fans blow up a stack of disco records between innings of a major league game. Then, Bernie is caught by authorities, and the club faces closure.
While the cast is sprightly and attractive, and the disco music is nostalgic, the movie itself is only mildly amusing and comes across as a Woody Allen clone without the bite. The dialogue is very intelligent, but insincere and forced. The comedy comes from absurd exchanges and not from jokes. Though many attempts at humor fail, there is a hilarious talk about the social role of the Disney film LADY AND THE TRAMP, with the debate postulating that the movie promotes young women to find tramps and thieves desirable. Finally, despite its winsome effort, the movie doesn’t seem to have any theme and only hints at the loss of an era or a stage of life. The audience never gets to care about any one character, and when an ultimate transition occurs, the result is un-satisfying.
There are several moral problems to watch out for in this movie. Charlotte and Jimmy have implied sex, while we actually see Des briefly fornicating. In the club, there are some topless women, and a few drag queens and fetish type costumes. While relatively obscenity free for such an R-rated feature, the dialogue remains selfish indicating the godless lifestyles they live. Yet, a strange and refreshing ray of hope comes from Charlotte when she sings all of the hymn “Amazing Grace.” Potential for her to be a moral character is never explored, and she goes back to being shallow and selfish.
THE LAST DAYS OF DISCO will not be a big hit, but keep an eye out for rising star Kate Beckinsale. Her skills are unique and, as a British woman, she pulls off a believable American accent. Likewise, Chloe Sevigny may come into greater prominence. Disco music, while fun, did not produce any great social contributions, but stay tuned for more disco theme movies such as the late summer release 54 and the Latin dance picture DANCE WITH ME. It appears as if the dance movie is not dead.
(Pa, CC, LL, V, SS, NN, A, DD, M) Eclectic worldview of young people seeking satisfaction at nightclubs with recognition of God & singing "Amazing Grace"; 9 obscenities & 13 mostly exclamatory profanities; mild violence including brief fighting, man struck with pipe & man thrown out of club; implied fornication with sexual noises, briefly depicted fornication & sexual dancing; upper male nudity, upper female nudity & revealing costumes; alcohol use; smoking & brief cocaine use; and, miscellaneous immorality including lying, pride & fetishes.