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Saturday Night Fever (1977) - Plot Summary Poster

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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 small paint store. However, things begin to change when he spies Stephanie Mangano 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 Manhattan just over the bridge soon change Tony's life forever.

  • The Maneros are typical of many of the working class Italian-American families of their Bay Ridge, Brooklyn neighborhood. Three generations of their family currently live under the same roof. They outwardly abide by their Catholic roots, and as such see oldest son Frank Jr. being a priest as salvation for the family. Everything that housewife Flo does is in the name of God, while Frank Sr. happily collects unemployment and rules what happens in the house when he is not working in construction. Nineteen year old middle offspring Tony seems destined to be stuck in this dead end life, he recently having started working at a paint store in the neighborhood. He hangs out with his Italian childhood friends where acts of machismo dominate. Within this setting, Tony lives solely for today, not having any idea of life outside of Bay Ridge, with the bridges - the Brooklyn Bridge and especially the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge - acting as barriers and symbols to unknown worlds across the water. Part of that living for today is spending all his money on Saturday nights out at the local disco, the 2001 Odyssey, he needing to look and act the part of the king of the dance floor in every aspect. This is the one place where he feels he is in control and where he has respect. Although he is up front with her about not being attracted to her, he strings along insecure Annette who does whatever she needs to be with Tony and his friends. Part of the stringing along is agreeing to be Annette's dance partner at 2001's upcoming dance contest, where they would have a good chance of winning. That changes when he spots a new girl at 2001, twenty year old Stephanie Mangano, who he sees not only as being the best dancer he's seen at the club in a long time, but also someone exotic as she has aspirations of life away from the neighborhood despite being in many ways typical of a Bay Ridge girl. Although she has no interest in him romantically, she does agree to be his dance partner at the contest. Issues with his family, with his friends and with Stephanie up to and including at the dance contest show Tony what his life is all about, something that he had never really thought about before.

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  • Tony Manero is an uneducated, immature Brooklyn teenager. The highlight of his week is going to the local disco, where he is the king of the dance floor. He lives with his abusive, overbearing parents, and works at a dead-end job at a small paint store. Tony meets Stephanie Mangano at the disco and they agree to dance together in a competition. Stephanie resists Tony's attempts to romance her, as she aspires to greater things; she is moving across the river to Manhattan. Gradually, Tony also becomes disillusioned with the life he is leading and he and Stephanie decide to help each other to start afresh.

  • A Brooklyn teenager feels his only chance to succeed is as the king of the disco floor. His carefree youth and weekend dancing help him to forget the reality of his bleak life.


Spoilers

The synopsis below may give away important plot points.

Synopsis

  • Anthony "Tony" Manero (John Travolta) is a 19-year old Italian American living in the Bay Ridge neighborhood of Brooklyn in New York City. Tony lives at home with his overbearing, abusive, uneducated, working-class parents (Val Bisoglio and Julie Bovasso), and works a dead-end job in a small hardware store by day since graduating from high school. But every Saturday night, Tony is "king of the dance floor" at 2001 Odyssey, a local disco club. Tony has four close friends that he goes out with to the disco: Joey (Joseph Cali); Double J (Paul Pape); Gus (Bruce Ornstein); and the diminutive Bobby C. (Barry Miller). Another informal member of their group is Annette (Donna Pescow), a neighborhood girl who longs for a more permanent and physical relationship with Tony.

    One plot device in the story is the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, which connects from Long Island to Staten Island, on which the friends ritually stop to clown around, but is particularly symbolic to Tony as an escape to a better life on the other side, in more suburban Staten Island.

    One day, Tony agrees to be Annette's partner in an upcoming dance contest at 2001 Odyssey, but her happiness is short-lived when Tony becomes infatuated with another girl dancing at the club, an older woman named Stephanie Mangano (Karen Lynn Gorney). Stephanie coldly rejects Tony's advances, but eventually agrees to be his partner in the competition, nothing more.

    Elsewhere, Tony's older brother, Frank Jr. (Martin Shakar), who was the pride of the family since becoming a priest in the Catholic Church, brings despair to their parents when he quits the priesthood. In contrast to his cold relationship with his distant and neglectful parents as well has his non-English speaking grandmother and rambunctious younger sister, Tony shares a warm relationship with Frank Jr., but feels vindicated, no longer being the black sheep of the family.

    While on his way home from the grocery store, Gus is attacked by a Hispanic gang and is hospitalized, and tells the guys it was the Barracudas.

    Meanwhile, the horny and irresponsible Bobby C. has been trying to get out of his relationship with his devoutly Catholic girlfriend, Pauline, who is pregnant with his child. Facing pressure from his family and others to marry her, Bobby asks former priest Frank Jr., if the Pope would grant him dispensation for an abortion. But when Frank tells him this would be highly unlikely, Bobby's feelings of despair deepen. Bobby C also lets Tony borrow his 1964 Chevrolet Impala to help move Stephanie from Bay Ridge to Manhattan, with Tony promising to call him later that night, but Tony does not.

    Eventually, the group gets their revenge on the Barracudas by crashing Bobby C's car into their hangout. Tony, Double J and Joey get out to fight, but Bobby C. takes off when a gang member tries to attack him in the car. When the guys visit Gus in the hospital, they are angry when he tells them that he may have fingered the wrong gang.

    Later, Tony and Stephanie dance at the competition and end up winning first prize. However, Tony believes that a Puerto Rican couple performed better, and the judges' decision was based on racism. He gives them the first prize trophy, and leaves with Stephanie in tow. Once outside in the car, he gives into his carnal urges and tries to rape Stephanie, resulting in her fleeing from him.

    Tony's friends come to the car along with a drunken and stoned Annette, who Joey says has agreed to have sex with everyone. Tony tries to lead her away, but is subdued by Double J and Joey, and sullenly leaves with the group in the car. Double J and Joey take turns with Annette, who begins to sober up during what has become a rape scene. Bobby C. pulls the car over on the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge for the usual cable-climbing antics. Typically abstaining, Bobby gets out and performs more dangerous stunts than the rest. Realizing that he is acting recklessly, Tony tries to get him to come down. But upset at his lonely life, his situation with Pauline, and a broken promise from Tony earlier, Bobby issues a tirade at Tony's lack of care before slipping and falling to his death more than two hundred feet in the water below.

    Disgusted and disillusioned by his friends, his life and his family, Tony spends the rest of the night riding the subway. As morning comes, he finally shows up at Stephanie's apartment in Manhattan, apologizing for his bad behavior. He tells her that he plans to leave Brooklyn and come to Manhattan to try and start a new life. Tony and Stephanie salvage their relationship and agree to be friends, sharing a tender moment as the credits roll.

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