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Nineteen-year-old Brooklyn native Tony Manero lives for Saturday nights at the local disco, where he's king of the club, thanks to his stylish moves on the dance floor. But outside of the club, things don't look so rosy. At home, Tony fights constantly with his father and has to compete with his family's starry-eyed view of his older brother, a priest. Nor can he find satisfaction at his dead-end job at a paint store. However, things begin to change when he spies Stephanie in the disco and starts training with her for the club's dance competition. Stephanie dreams of the world beyond Brooklyn, and her plans to move to the big city just over the bridge soon change Tony's life forever. Written by
A masterpiece from the greatest era of American cinema.
There are people who have seen this movie that have not been stoked by it (see some user comments). Personally I can't understand this. I know that there are people who have different tastes, and maybe some younger viewers will not be able to relate to it, or appreciate it. However, at the risk of sounding like a dick, I can confidently say that those are people I would not want to know anyways. This is a film that does what great films are supposed to do; that is to transcend our daily lives and bring us joy. There are a few films that can be called masterpieces because all the different film elements that are brought together have a unique quality and vision and the final result is something more special than the sum of the elements themselves. In a nutshell, this is a simple story about a young Italian Brooklyn man, Tony Manero, from humble roots with a gift for dancing who dreams of something better against all odds. He escapes from it all out on the dance floor, basking in the glow of the disco ball, and the frivolous, moving dance music. He meets another young woman at the danceclub, Stephanie Modano, played by an underrated Karen Lynn-Gorney, who is equal to him in dance ability, and, more importantly, in desiring a better life. The two struggle together, and against each other, in their pursuit of winning a dance contest that may spur on their dreams.
A simple story yes. One you've seen before yes. But after that, there is no other film that can touch it. John Travolta, as Tony, was in his prime, giving a performance that is so likeable because he is so normal. Who can't relate to a character who is so honest, so cool, so goofy, so conflicted; who has talent but doesn't get recognized by the people who should recognize him, like his family, only by his friends whom he knows deep down are all creeps? This is all of us!
The soundtrack features some of the best disco music ever made, in terms of making you feel joyous, and impervious to the world's problems. Mostly contributed by The Bee Gees, as well as others, it is the essential element that makes the whole thing work.
John Badham's direction is even; giving the audience plenty of music and show stopping musical bits, yet unafraid to lure you back to the grim reality of what our hero is always up against. But it's never heavy handed. The story is equal parts dramatic, comedic, exhilirating, and pensive, and moves along just as rhythmically as the music.
In the end, literally as well as figuratively, Tony is more alone and unsure than ever in his ever changing world. And so it makes sense that he reaches out to Stephanie for love and support; someone that has at least a little understanding of who he really is, even if they can't be lovers. Simple, realistic, beautiful. The 70's was the true golden age of American cinema. It was the era of the auteur. Great minds like Scorsese, Coppola, Lucas, Spielberg, Badham, and so forth had for a decade or so, the ability to make truly visionary films; in the sense that they had a lot of creative power to express themselves devoid of studio pressure, political correctness, marketing tie-ins, and big budget, sensory offending, special effects. They laid it on the line. And we get to enjoy it for eternity.
Attention younger viewers, don't let the distorted lingering stereotype fool you. This isn't a "cheesy film" with John Travolta dancing like a clown to music that "sucks". It is as good a film as you'll see, if you can allow yourself to appreciate it as a real film. Disco music was once cutting edge before it "sucked". John Travolta was actually a good dancer and actor, and the story really does have depth.
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