Movie Review: The Last Days of Disco (1998)


Title: The Last Days of Disco
Release Date: June 12, 1998
Director: Whit Stillman
Production Company: Castle Rock Entertainment | Westerly Films
Summary/Review:

This movie is set in the “very early 80s” around New York City’s disco scene when bouncers maintained power by holding people behind a velvet rope. Disco culture originated in the Black, Latin, and LGBT communities but these people serve as wallpaper to a story of white young adults, recent graduates of New England colleges, making their way into the City’s business world. Then again, since this story is about the demise of disco, it’s appropriate to focus on people like them.

I appreciate that the movie doesn’t overdo the disco-era costuming. On the other hand, there are numerous anachronisms, such as a conversation about Yuppies years before the term was in common use. The subways are miraculously free of graffiti and their apartment doors lack multiple locks. The movie is as much about the 90s when it was made as the 80s when it was set.

The main characters are Alice (Chloë Sevigny) and Charlotte (Kate Beckinsale), who knew one another at Hampshire College and have entry-level positions at a publishing company. They end up socializing and becoming roommates despite not really liking one another. Alice is a bit shy and naive, but intelligent. Charlotte is self-absorbed and casually insults everyone on the pretext of offering advice. Everyone knows someone like this and Beckinsale’s performance is deliciously obnoxious.

Into their lives come several men that are all white, have the same haircut, and wear ties so I had trouble telling them apart. Des (Chris Eigeman) is the manager of the disco who pretends to come out as gay to end relationships with women, and casually dates Alice for a time. Jimmy (Mackenzie Astin) is an ad exec who uses his friendship with Des to sneak clients into the club, and ends up dating Charlotte. Josh (Matt Keeslar) is an assistant district attorney with mental health issues who slowly develops a relationship with Alice. And Dan (Matt Powers) is a co-worker who mocks the women’s disco lifestyle.

The movie has some good dialogue and humor and does a good job capturing that uncertain period after college. I just wish it focused more on Alice and her self-discovery and less on indistinguishable dudebros.

Rating: ***