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While the movie is more apt to be recalled for its impact on American pop
culture, few who watch the movie will ever see beyond the admittedly
fantastic dance sequences. As a result, many people might never recognize
Saturday Night Fever as perhaps one of the best movies ever made about class
struggles among white ethnics.
While his quick study under Denny Terrio for those dance sequences showed a great deal of determination, Travolta's Tony Manero shines in so many other way. The looks of embarrassment and exasperation that his character expresses when confronted with the possibility of working in a Bay Ridge paint store all of his life, or the prejudice and regional chauvinism of his friends, or the behavior of his friends at White Castle or his initial inability to express himself to Stephanie in any way that might impress her, all of these and more contribute to a fully realized character.
While Tony's friends idolize him, the movie never really does, but it does allow empathy for his plight, because even Tony realizes that he is virtually trapped by the current conditions of his existence. While much might be made of the homophobia, racism, and misogyny of the protagonist and his friends, these things are never excused and the movie goes to some lengths to express Tony's own recognition that these are shortcomings in not only his character, but those borne of a provincial mentality which he desperately longs to escape.
Forget those who call this a musical. While the music is an intricate part of the film and setting, Travolta's performance is what sets this film apart.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
What many people didn't appreciate about SNF was the lifestyle and
environment in which this story is set. People don't understand that to
be known throughout the neighborhood was a prevailing desire for its'
As a resident of Brooklyn, the highest honor was and is, is to be known by people all around your neighborhood and beyond. I remember chatting with just such a person who kept insisting that if I asked anyone one all around the area, they would know who he is. This may seem foreign to most people but in the neighborhood in which Tony Monero grew up, this was paramount.
Of course, this way of living escaped those audiences that were critical of the film. In all, this was a brilliant expose on life as a Brooklyn youth in the '70's who radiated around their weekend temple of hedonism, the Disco.
SNF works on so many levels that Travolta should easily have won Best Actor for his contribution in his film. SNF was not only a great drama but also a brilliant semi-musical with songs that will last forever.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Few films can claim the status of creating a national (international, even) phenomenon upon release, but this one can. It offers a glimpse into the restless, nowhere lives of a group of young Brooklyn men, particularly Travolta, an hourly employee in a paint store who burns off steam on the dance floor every weekend. At home, he's considered worthless, but in his favorite dance club, he is monarch of all he surveys with men admiring him and women throwing themselves at him (even offering to dab his sweaty brow!) All important to him is an upcoming dance contest which he feels will propel him into another level of notoriety and prestige and he sets out to win it any way he can, constantly practicing his slickest moves. Gorney plays a social-climbing girl who has laid the ground work for getting out of Brooklyn and, though she is attracted to Travolta, is repulsed by the common qualities he represents. He becomes fascinated by her and considers her his way out of his current surroundings. Meanwhile, Travolta's friends dabble in booze, drugs, sex and gang warfare as they wallow in the stew of their existence. It all builds up to the big night of the contest where things may not turn out as expected. Travolta is magnetic in this, his first major film role. He worked tirelessly to perfect the dance moves which (though, at times, look rather silly today) are a highlight of the film. He also, however, brings much heart, charisma and commitment to the dramatic side of his not-always-sympathetic character. Gorney (who is easily a decade too old for her role) is a good counterpoint to Travolta and ably embodies her tacky, but desperate-to-change, character. She attempts to be as classy and refined as possible, yet her accent and crackling chewing gum belies her past. Their somewhat complex relationship adds some depth to what could have been a very shallow film. Travolta's friends are played with much authenticity and verve. Oddly, these actors continued with only marginally successful careers while Travolta went through the stratosphere. Another carefully etched performance is turned in by Pescow as one of Travolta's devoted followers. She goes a tad overboard near the end, but otherwise presents a solid, though pitiful, characterization. (She was one of the few actors in the film to achieve any sort of success afterwards and even that was limited. Gorney fell off the cinematic map entirely!) Travolta's family is played by more believable and well-textured actors. The music of the film (the soundtrack of which was one of the all time top sellers) is inherent to the story and is a compilation of some of the best that disco had to offer (though some might say even the best was still horrible!) Even the "Disco Sucks" crowd cannot deny the impact that this film had on the country as it set trends everywhere. Interestingly, some of the group numbers in the disco bear a striking similarity to the more recent country line dancing craze, only with more arm movements. The language of the film is tough, but necessary and realistic. There are two gut-wrenchingly suspenseful scenes atop the Verrazano Narrows bridge. It's a time capsule of a hedonistic and free-wheeling era (pre-AIDS) but with insightful examination of class structure and economic barriers, the nature of friendship among young men and the cost of inhumanity towards one another. A rancid and ludicrous sequel (which is good for some unintentional laughs) can not tarnish the spirit of the original film which still holds up today.
Watched this as a 15 year old in 1977 at the local cinema - and like
many of my friends it was a watershed moment in my life. Opened our
eyes to a whole new world - nightclubs, disco music, women, dreams -
there was a whole world out there which we;d never seen. In my small
town, mobile discos sprouted everywhere - and we all wanted to be John
Travolta....and it was one of the catalysts for me to leave home and
explore the world.
Watched it again last night, and as a 50 year old it all came flooding back - melancholia obviously setting in because I felt like a 15 year old again - the memories came flooding back. And whilst some of the movie is obviously dated, it still after all these years gives a sense of joy, hope, youth and dreams. The opening scenes are timeless classics, the music is still sensational, and the film really does have some great characters and some brilliant sub plots.
Stil magic - a timeless classic, and personally probably the most influential film I ever saw.
I believe that Saturday NIGHT FEVER in its original 118 minute R+ version is genuinely one of the great dramas of the 70s, a film so severe, that I liken it to TAXI DRIVER in its relentless scathing depiction of NY life in the 70s. When first released in Australia in 1977 it was the full, full on, foul mouthed vicious version that I astonishingly saw in free to air TV in Sydney last night (on a 9.30pm slot). This R+ version had not been seen here for almost 30 years and only existed in its PG re release that played endlessly as a double feature with GREASE thru the 80s. Amusingly that is exactly how it played last night with GREASE prior at 7.30pm. All that aside, SNF with its scalding expose of the lives of these 20 somethings is a superb film, and for all those moaning about it not being fun because it is a musical... well it is not supposed to be fun... it is a damning comment on the uneducated and ignorance of the lives depicted. If you seek a fun musical then see STEP UP which is NY similar but nowhere as courageous and fully realised as this film. In 1978 with underage fans screaming to be let in, it was considered smart to cut 10 minutes out, dub over all the swearing (especially the two times Travolta says 'c*nt' in the same sentence, all the references and scenes to car sex...) and make it PG friendly... and it certainly was a success. But if you want a "Scorsese version" as originally released, and you can tell drama from drivel, then this full R+ version is for you. I have never seen a better damning of an uneducated bunch of cruel insensitive people in any film... and if there is a moral to this cinematic thrashing... it is that if you are not educated then you will end up like this lot. Brit director John Badham has drawn well from the equally vicious portrayals seen in the 'kitchen sink' dramas made in Britain in the early 60s like "Saturday Night And Sunday Morning" or THIS SPORTING LIFE where the working class who are bogged in their ignorance keep returning to an emotional bruising cycle of behaviour until one just plain stops and looks at himself. Like Tony does in this film. I also believe the scene with Karen Lyn Gorney and Travolta in the empty apartment they consider renting is one of the great moments in any American film (she is sitting on the window sill). This is a great film, uncompromising in its depiction of that 'lifestyle' cornered through ignorant mean-ness into delusion and nowhere. Perfectly realised. then cut to a PG. See the original.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
There are some people who, at the mere mention of the words "Saturday Night
Fever" giggle or smirk or give you a "You actually watch that movie?" look
as if it's a piece of celluloid which people only took seriously from 1977
to 1979. Most of the people who have that attitude either have never sat
down to watch the whole movie (these people probably think Travolta wore the
white suit throughout all 120 minutes of the film and think that the whole
thing took place inside the discotheque), or they've never seen the movie at
all and have relied on what others say, or they just loathe disco music (and
for these latter people, there's not much that can be done).
But if you look at the movie in its entirety--the R rated version, preferably (the PG version is too watered down and isn't the Real Thing)--you will be surprised at just how genuinely involving and worthy the movie is.
You will also be surprised by how great Travolta is. Yes, he plays a character similar to his Vinnie Barbarino TV character in that both are Italian, working-class, and native to Brooklyn, but the similarities end there. While Barbarino is shallow and awkwardly cool, Tony Manero is deep and smoothly hip; while Barbarino is happy-go-lucky, Manero is seriously troubled and doubtful about many things; while Barbarino is dim-witted, Manero is not only street-smart but also people-smart: he sees right through his dance partner Stephanie's refined veneer, and through his father's superior facade.
The point here is that Travolta proved in "SNF" that he's the Real Deal--not just a pretty face or a good dancer or a comic actor but an ACTOR, period. And the Oscar nomination he received for his performance is evidence of that. I personally don't think Travolta has given a performance since then which is as consistently on-target, nuanced, and powerful as the one he gives in this movie (and yes, I'm including "Pulp Fiction" when I make that statement).
I won't say much about the music because everybody knows by now how great and attention-grabbing it is. But what doesn't get as much credit are the movie's director and story. John Badham nicely captures the energy of the disco, especially in the Line-Dancing/Hustle scene at the half-hour point: he gives the scene a dreamy quality complete with camera Dissolves and smoke, and he's not afraid to take his time and let the scene play on. Anyone who's ever been on the dance floor knows that sensation: the feeling that time has stopped and all that exists are you and the music.
Many people have said that the movie's weakest aspect is its story. They say it's unnecessarily sordid, ugly, and disturbing. In fact, the movie's original choice for director--another John- John G. Avildsen--declined to do the film because he felt the story was too downbeat. But I think the downbeat quality is just as necessary an ingredient of the story as its disco music. One of the movie's points is that Disco is an escape, a multi-colored paradise in which Tony Manero and everyone else for that matter can forget about the ugly, unfair world patiently waiting for them outside. That's why Tony flips out toward the end at the dance contest when the Top Prize unfairly goes to him and Stephanie instead of to the more deserving Puerto Rican couple. He sees that the injustice of the outside world has pierced through the silver walls of the disco world---a world which he had always thought was too special, pure, and innocent to allow that inside; and now, that world has been tainted...with Reality.
Another quality of the film that tends to get overlooked is the supporting acting. I'm surprised that most people have cited Karen Lynn Gorney's performance as being among the movie's weaknesses. I think people say that because Travolta's presence is so charismatic and overwhelming that her contribution has gotten eclipsed. But if you take a good look at her performance you'll see that she creates a convincing, impressive portrait of a woman fiercely struggling with what she wants to be, what she is, and what she used to be. Gorney's Stephanie is a fascinating character: a woman with a goddess' face but a Brooklyn-gutter-girl's voice.
I saw "SNF" when it first came out--I was 5-years-old; now I'm 30, and I will always remember the powerful effect the movie had on me. Even at age 5, I was surprised at how great Travolta was and how engrossing the story and music were. And that's why I keep coming back to it--to relive that experience over and over and over...like a favorite record.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Every time I take a film class, I see five or six films that I would
otherwise probably never have watched, and Saturday Night Fever was one of
the films that I saw for a class I'm taking about Italian Cinema, and I
surprised at how good it is! To me, this movie never evoked any interest
because I don't find anything interesting about disco dancing and I don't
think John Travolta is the most fetching actor in the world. Clearly, he
hasn't exactly had the most enviable career. But Saturday Night Fever is
about dancing, there is just so much more to it.
There can be no doubt about the irony of Travolta starring in a film in which he is the best dancer in town while he is at the height of his awkward youth, but like I said, the movie is not just about dancing. The dancing is a backdrop for a much deeper meaning. The movie has violence, blood, death, crime, sex, nudity, everything that you would almost automatically expect to be absent from a film like this. I thought it was going to be some goofy romance (made goofy by Travolta, of course. Can you even imagine him in a romantic comedy?), I mean, it has romance, but the movie is so much more.
Saturday Night Fever is a very realist film about a young Italian kid who lives in a run-down neighborhood in Brooklyn and who is trying to find meaning in his life, which is virtually meaningless when he is off the dance floor. He has a crappy job, no education beyond high school, an unhappy life at home, and no prospects for the future. His concept of the future is what he's going to wear to the dance hall (charmingly named 2001 Odyssey) on Saturday night. Clearly, outside the dance hall, he is not the hero that he is on the dance floor. Early in the film, Tony (Travolta) is walking down the street and he runs back to talk to a girl that he walked past, and she blows him off, seeming to be annoyed by him (which is weird, because who could resist a disco stud carrying a paint can!). Yet when he is at the dance hall, the crowd parts for him, girls ask if they can wipe the sweat off his forehead, he is the king.
The costumes are excellent, from the first frames of the film that show Tony walking down the street in his hilariously disco outfit and all throughout the film. I remember one scene where one of Tony's geeky friends, Bobby, lets Tony borrow his car, and then as Bobby walks away, you can see that he has on what have to be the most ludicrous disco shoes ever created. Tony's meticulous care about his outfit is made clear when he wears a sheet wrapped around himself to the dinner table, and then gets upset not that his father hit him, but that he hit his HAIR. `I spend a lot of time on my hair, and you hit it.' However, no matter how hard he tries, he does NOT look like Al Pacino.
(spoilers) But on a deeper level, Saturday Night Fever has to do with everything from doing what you want to do with your own life to loyalty among friends to religious persecution and hypocrisy. There is also some substantial symbolism in that bridge that Tony knows so much about and which Bobby doesn't seem to have been mature enough to cross late in the film. `It's a dog eat dog world,' and Saturday Night Fever uses dancing as only one among many techniques to deliver that message. The film is dated in many ways, but it remains a landmark film, especially concerning the Italian experience in America in the 70s, and is definitely worth a look.
It's funny how people remember a film they are reminiscing about. An
example would be "Muriel's Wedding" - a film that is labeled as a
comedy. And yet it is one of the saddest & most realistic films about
family life that has been made. When you remember the film, its moments
of humour are so clever, that they hide the dark undercurrents
The same goes for "Saturday Night Fever" (SNF), a film that showcases disco in its most perfect form. And yet the true theme of the movie is about wanting more out of your life but just existing, until something affects you so much that you decide to start living.
John Travolta's character is so well played against his friends who are, quite simply, cruel no hopers who disrespect the opposite sex & treat them as fifth best against the car they all share to have 'mobile' sex in.
The female character that eventually shifts Travolta's character appears at a time when horrific events really force him to reassess where he is going something that his friends will never be unable to ever do.
It is easy to label a movie a certain way. There are films with similar themes such as 'Good Will Hunting', which is noted for its themes & dialogue rather than being a kitsch memory, and we should remember SNF for the same reasons.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Saturday Night Fever is more than just a disco movie. This film is a great coming of age story. As the movie rolls along, Tony begins to realize there is more to life than just hanging out with his buddies and screwing every female in site. At the end you can see this when he refuses his prize in the dance contest. This film also covers the breakup of a family. When Tony's brother decides to leave the priesthood, this already puts more strain on the tenuous relationship between all the members of his family, especially his father.
I just watched this again on some channel. . Bravo, maybe.
When it first came out I was very young, and actually went under duress because all my other friends wanted to go.
Then I had to sit through it again on a flight to Europe.
I didn't get it then--I wasn't part of the whole disco culture--and now when I watch it I'm hypnotized, because it's so screamingly dated. The only way I can really view it is as a cultural artifact, which I guess, is exactly what it has become.
Since everyone knows the plot by this time, my only observation is that the only really sympathetic character in the story is Tony's brother, who quit the priesthood. Tony's friends are clods, except for the one who's the whiner, Tony's family is repellent, and the only woman in the story that *seems* to have anything resembling self-esteem is a delusional, stuck-up pain in the butt. As for Tony, yeh, he has his likable moments, but for the most part he treats women like crap.
One thing that always puzzled me was the casting of Karen Gorney as the girl Tony fixates on. Nothing against the actress, but she's utterly ordinary, and, as the character, totally obnoxious. Tony is a genuine hunk, all right, so why not cast someone as the unattainable girl who really can stop some traffic on the street? I mean, there WERE pretty women in Brooklyn in the 1970s.
I've noticed in some of the reviews that the lack of political correctness in the movie seems to be refreshing to a lot of people, so I'll say something that may be politically incorrect: As I watched the camera pan lovingly over the prone figure of John Travolta lying in bed on his stomach, wearing nothing but black briefs, I thought "Wow, this is gay." Not that there's anything wrong with that.
I understand why this flick appeals to guys on another level. Tony is the ultimate six foot strutting, prancing rooster, a man who knows that any girl he singles out will probably fall on her back and open her legs. And yet he has this streak of sensitivity. But not TOO much sensitivity.
As for the music, you either love the Bee Gees and disco or you hate 'em. But I will say I understand why the soundtrack became one of the biggest selling soundtracks of all time.
Anyhow, it's worth watching if only for the sheer culture shock.
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