The Last Days of Disco (1998)

The Last Days of Disco posterStarring Chloë Sevigny, Kate Beckinsale, Christopher Eigeman, MacKenzie Astin, Matt Keeslar, Tara Subkoff, and Robert Sean Leonard.
Written and directed by Whit Stillman.

Grade: C

Review by Carlo Cavagna.

When was the last time you went to a dance club and were able to place a drink order without struggling to be heard, let alone have a detailed, esoteric discussion on life and love? More a series of conversations than a movie, the primary function of The Last Days of Disco seems to be to demonstrate what a wit Whit Stillman is. Sure, there's conflict and a plot (actually more conflict than plot), but it's secondary. Stillman isn't interested in telling a good story; he's interested in using the plot to direct and connect the characters' conversations. Otherwise they'd be stuck discussing their college days and whether so-and-so is cute for the entire movie.

The Last Days of Disco is set in that traumatic time when the disco era came to a close--i.e., the "very early 1980s."  It follows former college classmates and current colleagues Alice (Chloë Sevigny) and Charlotte (Kate Beckinsale) as they develop new friendships and relationships. Alice fancies advertising executive Jimmy (MacKenzie Astin), but he likes Charlotte. At the same time, lawyer Tom is interested in Alice, as are Jimmy's friend Des (Chris Eigeman), the assistant manager of the disco, and, later on, Des' friend Josh (Matt Keeslar), an assistant district attorney. Beckinsale and SevignyAnachronistically, none of the characters have really bad hair, except for the dancing extras, and never for a moment do any of them shut the heck up. What is the true significance of Lady and the Tramp?  Was Shakespeare right when he wrote, "To thine own self be true"? Will disco ever die? Meanwhile, something illegal may be going on at the club.

At the end of it all, Stillman does have a point, and the conversations are sometimes as funny as he intends them to be. Not always, however, and all the talk wears thin after awhile. Plus, there's a few too many characters in this movie, which makes it initially difficult to keep track of who's who. The Last Days of Disco isn't a bad satire, but it isn't up to the level of Metropolitan or Barcelona, Stillman's previous two films. If you looooved the talky, quirky humor of those two movies, chances are you'll like this movie as well. If you merely enjoyed the other two without your mind and soul being deeply moved, you may not enjoy The Last Days of Disco.

Review © March 1999 by AboutFilm.Com and the author.
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