‘Saturday Night Fever’ Retro Review
A review by G-FUNK
Director: John Badham (what, really?)
Cast: John Travolta and some other people.
Plot: Tony feels constrained by life in Brooklyn, unable to find his way out of the ghetto. The only time he feels like he’s worth something in on the dance floor.
Review: The impact that SNF has had on popular culture is undeniable. The soundtrack, dance moves, costumes and even the opening sequence are known far and wide regardless of whether or not you’ve seen the film. The key moments of the film have been parodied to the point that it’s difficult to take them seriously. Not that it’s easy to take the disco scenes seriously – the tight-pants clad Travolta strutting about the dance floor could be a comedy routine in itself.
What many people unfamiliar with the film outside of its numerous parodies may not realise is that it’s an extremely rough and gritty look at teenage life at the bottom of the Brooklyn poverty ladder. Throughout the film are gratuitous sex, drug use, domestic violence and reckless behaviour that extend to gang fights, gang rape and suicide. The garish nightlife of the disco only served to contrast the reality of the life that Tony Monero is trapped in.
This sense of being trapped by the society around him forms the central theme for the film. Tony is frequently put down by his unemployed father and compared unfavourably to his brother who became a priest, his job in a paint store was a dead end and his friends seemed content to remain bottom feeders. It’s only when he enters the nightclubs and hits the dance floors does he feel like he’s worthwhile. The shift in dynamics from his put upon life and the bright dance halls are well handled despite the dramatic shift in tone and the viewer is quick to see it as Tony sees it: his only escape.
It’s easy to emphasise with the characters and their desire to escape their place in the world without knowing of a way out. The development of the lead role is convincing and interesting to watch, and John Travolta seems born to play the role. It’s no surprise that the character became iconic, started a fashion craze and launched the actor’s career. It’s a pity the rest of the actors don’t work to the same level.
What ultimately brings the movie down is the disco fashion. At the time of release the disco fashion was a somewhat underground culture and this movie was the catalyst that launched it into the mainstream. Unless you are particularly enamoured with the style there’s little to enjoy about it. Travolta comes across as what is intended to be a masculine character but the high-heeled boots and long collars don’t reflect this. The soundtrack will cause some viewers (like this one) want to claw their ears out. Being so central to the look of the film means that it does drag the final score down to…
Score: SEVEN outta TEN