Wednesday, December 3, 2014
624. Saturday Night Fever (1977)
Running Time: 118 minutes
Directed By: John Badham
Written By: Norman Wexler, from the magazine article Tribal Rites of the New Saturday Night by Nik Cohn
Main Cast: John Travolta, Karen Lynn Gorney, Barry Miller, Joseph Cali, Paul Pape
Click here to view the trailer
Man, I really crapped out yesterday. My goal was to watch something like four movies within yesterday alone and I only managed to bang out two. Luckily, I talked my wife into joining me in a film today and together we picked Travolta's 1977 breakout hit, Saturday Night Fever and to my surprise, I enjoyed it.
It all begins with a pair of shoes walking down a busy NYC sidewalk, a can of paint dangling from the clenched fist of the owner of said shoes. The shoes belong to amateur, nightclub dancer Anthony Manero, who's going to his day job as a hardware store employee. During the day's Anthony is boring: he's nineteen years old and still living with his parents, making measly wages mixing paint for common folks. It's not until the sun goes down that Tony Manero emerges, gold chains dangling around his neck and slick shirts draped over his shoulders, ready to pound his dancin' shoes against the bright lights of the disco dance floor. He's gawked at as he enters the club, one woman gets nervous in his presence and asks permission to wipe the sweat from his brow - he obliges her. The 2001 Odyssey is his club of choice and it just so happens that a big dance contest is on the horizon. Tony eyes a newcomer to the dance floor, a vivacious woman named Stephanie (Gorney) he sees for the first time decked out in white and flashing some groovy moves. She plays hard to get at first, but eventually caves and agrees to be Tony's partner for the contest. The two practice together and Tony begins to fall in love, but Stephanie is a tough nut to crack and despite Tony bending over backwards for her, he can't seem to get any closer to her. Meanwhile, a race war between the Italians (Tony's group - obviously) and the Hispanics is in full swing, with one of Tony's friends taking a beating. All this and we haven't even touched on Tony's tough home life, with a verbally abusive father, an overbearing mother and a brother who's just quit the priesthood.
There's just something about a movie made in the 70s, early 80s and set in NYC that appeals to me. I love the hustle and the bustle of the city during that era (not that it's not hustling and bustling now). I love the melting pot factor and I love the talk of Catholics and their church ways (don't ask me why, it's just always been sorta fascinating). I love the ugly, funky colored wallpapers and I just love the style of the time. I love the clothing styles and the music (here the BeeGees are used to maximum effect and almost become another character themselves - see How Deep Is Your Love and More Than a Woman). I love it all and I love how at that time, the rules of movies weren't established yet. You go see a movie today and things are to be assumed; the good guy gets the girl at the end, the team wins the big game and everything ends up roses & kittens. The end of Saturday Night Fever is a big downer, to say the least. Tony & Stephanie "win" the big dance contest, however Tony instantly gives up the winnings to what he thinks are the better, Hispanic couple, so technically nothing is won and it just underlines the racial tension of the times. Then, one of the gang dies and ultimately, Tony only gets as far as friendship with his dream girl, riding a subway as the movie closes and thinking about how everything went wrong and how this whole dancing thing isn't a career, but just a pipe dream and no matter how many gold chains he drapes over his neck, all he's doing on Saturday nights is escaping reality. He'll still end up every morning getting called a bum by his father and feeding paint cans to the paint shaker at his $4.00 per hour job. Plastics young man, plastics!
What can I say I'm a Travolta fan. There's something about the guy that makes me want to watch. I love Grease, I love Pulp Fiction and I quite liked Saturday Night Fever...and well, that's really all that comes to mind right now, but three ain't bad. What Muriel's Wedding and The Adventures of Priscilla did for me in turning me into an ABBA fan, this movie did in turning me into a BeeGees fan (I'm listening to How Deep Is Your Love right now, as I type this and being transported back to the 70s, sitting on my windowsill in my groovy, NYC apartment with the orange painted walls and the green couch). Speaking of apartments, dig that pad that Karen Lynn Gorney lives in, like George Costanza I've always dreamed of having steps in an apartment and this girl had two flights, both within her flat!
I'm rambling now, so I'll wrap it up. You can knock this movie all you want and call it simply a dance flick, but in my view it's much more than that. It's a time capsule piece about love, friendship and being a teen in the 70s with no direction. It has dancing, but that's certainly not the meat & potatoes of the picture. If you don't dig John Travolta, then fine, but I really don't know why. He was a good actor who just happened to be a heart throb (I'm straight as an arrow, but even I'll admit that girls had to be wetting their pants over this guy back in the day and according to my wife he was quite the hunk). Anyway, give it a shot and be open minded and I think you might be pleasantly surprised.
RATING: 7.5/10 It's currently streaming on Netflix for the interested, so check it out. Not sure how my schedule's gonna turn out this week, but with just about twenty movies left to go before the season wraps, expect my pace to quicken.
MOVIES WATCHED: 879
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH: 122
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