Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Film Review: THE LAST DAYS OF DISCO (1998, Whit Stillman)

Stars: 5 of 5.
Running Time: 113 minutes.
Tag-line: "History is made at night."
Notable Cast or Crew: Chloë Sevigny, Kate Beckinsale, Chris Eigeman (BARCELONA, KICKING AND SCREAMING, HIGHBALL), Mackenzie Astin (THE GARBAGE PAIL KIDS MOVIE, LOST), Matt Ross (FACE/OFF, BIG LOVE), Carlos Jacott (HIGHBALL, CONRAD AND BUTLER TAKE A VACATION), Jennifer Beals, Robert Sean Leonard, Burr Steers (Gore Vidal's nephew and 'Flock of Seagulls' in PULP FICTION), Taylor Nichols (BARCELONA, METROPOLITAN).
Best one-liner: "Book this clown."

"You know that Shakespearean admonition, 'To thine own self be true?' It's premised on the idea that 'thine own self' is something pretty good, being true to which is commendable. But what if 'thine own self' is not so good? What if it's pretty bad? Would it be better, in that case, NOT to be true to thine own self?" Welcome to Jane Austen's SATURDAY NIGHT PYREXIA, a world where the silver-tongued parry, slash, and down vodka tonics (and whisky sours) deep into an endless night of excess, crippling malaise, and the sweet, sweet disco beat.

This singular universe comes courtesy of Whit Stillman, and again, he follows a circle of UHBs (Urban Haute Bourgeoisie) as they simultaneously wrestle with preconceived notions of failure AND try to get the most out of their nightlife. If you prefer your comedy subtle, intricate, and full of stinging wordplay, then LAST DAYS OF DISCO will likely rank among your all-time favorites. Stillman's characters are at once extremely lovable and hateable; they either possess no sense of propriety or far too much, they won't take 'no' for an answer, or will, cheerfully.

And like any social circle, their ranks include winsome scoundrels, total a-holes, mousy introverts, and the tragically repressed. Our cast includes (amidst a sea of publishing flunkies, ponytailed d-bags, and costumed partyers) duplicitous, self-absorbed, and all too true-to-life Charlotte (Kate Beckinsale); awkward, traditional Alice (Chloe Sevigny); stand-in Fourierist, irresistibly drawn to Yuppie culture, Dan (Matt Ross); moralist, manic-depressive Josh (Matt Keelsar); groveling, pleasant ad man Jimmy (Mackenzie Astin); and the crown jewel: snarky, witty, roguish cad Des (Chris Eigeman, as himself...kind of).

Now, Stillman realizes that he's created a divisive aesthetic, and rewards his die-hards with warm, clever cameos from characters in his previous films, METROPOLITAN and BARCELONA. But, after 11 years, I only wish he would reward us with another feature... (Supposedly there are two television pilots, the long-awaited Jamaican film, and perhaps some other projects in the works.)

-Sean Gill

No comments: