[Film Review] The Last Days of Disco (1998)

The Last Days of Disco poster.jpg

Title: The Last Days of Disco
Year: 1998
Country: USA
Language: English
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Music
Director/Writer: Whit Stillman
Music: Mark Suozzo
Cinematography: John Thomas
Cast:
Chloë Sevigny
Kate Beckinsale
Mackenzie Astin
Matt Keeslar
Chris Eigeman
Robert Sean Leonard
Matt Ross
Jennifer Beals
Tara Subkoff
Burr Steers
David Thornton
Michael Weatherly
Taylor Nichols
Jaid Barrymore
Rating: 7.0/10

The Last Days of Disco 1998.jpg

USA conversationalist Whit Stillman’s third feature, THE LAST DAYS OF DISCO trades on his personal experiences of NYC’s disco-scene (salted with Harvard-disparaging quips) in the early 80s, ebulliently scrutinizing a coterie of freshly out-of-college yuppie-wannabes, who are habitually congregated in their common haunt, an unconscionably popular nightstand, meantime, their love life and career path wax and wane variably, signposted by its title when their disco days are unexpectedly being put paid to, time to grown up when reality bites.

Alice (Sevigny), a self-contained sylph dithering about making the right decisions – don’t be judgmental, be sexy, always at the bidding of her more popular but stuck-up friend Charlotte (a fresh-faced Beckinsale, looking ghastly under the slap), both girls work in the same publishing house and mingle with the likes of Tom (Leonard), a spiffy environmental lawyer, Jimmy (Astin), an enterprising adman, No.1 and No.2 prospects on Alice’s infatuation list, then there are Josh (Keeslar), a young assistant district attorney and Des (Eigeman), a college-dropout who becomes one of the managers of the said nightclub, both take a fancy on the quiet but intelligent Alice.

Gender study and sex politics are thrown into the mix where philandering and mendacity (using “gay excuse” to break off relationships), gender double standards (you are a titillating slut, I will not forfeit our chance of a one-night-stand, but afterwards, we are finished.), treacherous friendship (Beckingsale is totally in her wheelhouse as the paradigm of the so called “green tea bitch”, avant la lettre), even venereal disease, collectively roil the dynamism of their pairing-off games, to somewhat wacky but consistently buoyant vibes, however, a byplay relative of an undercover police investigation is only patchily introduced as a frivolous plot device, fails to emphasize what is at stake, and the manic-depressive Josh, accorded with a forthright quirkiness and spontaneous elocution, potentially the most fascinating character among the posse, is wasted by the wooden, stilted performance from the blandly handsome Keeslar, whose recapitulation of the film’s tenor near the finish-line comes off as a deleterious overkill.

However, club-scene hasn’t died out, has been continuing luring new generations of hipsters and scenesters with theme-specific variations to this day, over three decades later, THE LAST DAYS OF DISCO is, to each their own, a sparkling eulogy of Whitman’s own youthful abandon and disillusion, and on a sociological level, a zeitgeist-reflecting conversation piece that thankfully doesn’t belie its maker’s undue conceit and guile.

referential films: Stillman’s LOVE & FRIENDSHIP (2016, 7.2/10); Dylan Kidd’s ROGER DODGER (2002, 7.3/10).

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