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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 16.67%
Average: 12.5%
Pretty Bad: 4.17%
Total Crap: 2.08%

1 review, 42 user ratings

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Saturday Night Fever
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by Collin Souter

"Thank God it's not 'Thank God It's Friday'"
5 stars

It starts with a strut. To the rhythm of one of the most recognizable bass lines ever recorded (Staying Alive, by the Bee-Gees), Tony Monero walks down the streets of Brooklyn wearing mostly black, save for a red buttoned shirt. He carries a paint can and as the camera pans up, we see that he doesn"t look at us, but to his right and with a slight smirk across his face. Part swagger, part confidence, all attitude. By the look of this shot, we can see this guy can part waters with just a walk through the door. He enters and all eyes fixate on him. Because he has charisma. Because he's cool. But mostly, because he can dance. So, what's with the paint can?

Tony Monero works at a hardware store and one might interpret the can of paint represents that which holds Tony down. Without the paint can and the dead-end job that goes with it, Tony is a star at a dance club. Without the fancy clothes and brooding exterior, he's the son of working class parents facing troubled times. Yet, Tony knows no identity. His friends look up to him without really seeing him. When we see him, we see an arrogant, sexist, obnoxious narcissist. Yet, John Travolta managed to pull off an incredible feat: He made Tony Monero sympathetic..

"Saturday Night Fever"--a cultural phenomenon when released in 1977 despite an ensuing disco backlash--holds up beautifully today and part of it has to do with its vulgarity. The screenplay as written would never get made today, with its openly racist and hateful characters. Tony Monero has so little going for him both as a person and a hero that the movie will likely take one aback with its approach to its central character, especially in this PC climate. It's a thoroughly believable, uncompromising performance from Travolta that gives this movie its complexity and depth.

With Tony as its anti-hero, "Saturday Night Fever" did more than just encapsulate an underground (at the time) dance/musical movement, but also called attention to the dead-end prospects that went along with the nightclub disco culture once it consumed people. It depicts all the drug-taking, the loose sexuality and the misogyny that goes with a Saturday night at the 2001 Odyssey, the club where Tony and his buddies hang out.

They enter and get their own regular table. Tony has his share of groupies who "love to watch [him] dance!" When one woman asks Tony if she can wipe his brow, Tony doesn't think twice about the offer. His friends gape in wonderment at Tony's power over women, but today's audience will probably look on in horror as the women's movement takes another twenty-year back-peddle.

Take, for instance, the character of Annette (Donna Pescow), a voluptuous groupie that has a mostly-off relationship with Tony. His interest in her doesn't extend beyond the likelihood of her spreading her legs for him in the back seat of his friend's car. When she finally succumbs to his urges, neither of them have birth control. Tony's reply: "Forget it, then. Just give me a blowjob." Later in the movie, when this character asks Tony, "Why are you always mean to me? All I ever did was like you," Tony ponders for a moment then dismisses her plea with a simple "Gimme a break."

Tony Monero has always been "liked" by his friends and groupies, but never understood. Only when Tony fixates on a female dancer in the club who has talents that match (if not exceed) his own does he feel a true, human connection. The woman, Stephanie (Karen Lynn Gorney), does not like Tony. She sees in him what we see in him. Of course, Tony's charisma eventually breaks her down, but not without a struggle. He talks her into being his partner for a dance contest at the disco. We get the sense that the prize does not matter for Tony, so much as being on the dance floor with someone who will challenge him to be a better dancer and a better person.

When he's not dancing or working, Tony feels a certain amount of pressure at home. His father mocks him for being proud of a $4/hour raise at the hardware store. Tony's brother Frank (Martin Shakar), the pride of the family, is a priest suffering a crisis of faith. This resigning of the priesthood boosts Tony's confidence, but also releases a pent-up anger at the dinner table. With his mother crying, Tony unleashes words that show his frustration as well as his vulnerability. He doesn't want to say these words anymore than she wants to hear them. With or without his brother's accomplishments as a barometer for success in his family, the pressure on Tony never stops.

"Saturday Night Fever" holds up because it had the good sense to be a character study first and a pop culture examination second. As a depiction of one of the most reviled pop culture movements in history, the movie actually does its subject a service by showcasing some of the best dance scenes ever filmed, most of which involve only Travolta. He has an amazing, graceful presence on the dance floor and director John Badham compliments him by using sparse editing and angles that don't distract from the fact that Tony was born to do this. Today, the movie's restrained style seems refreshing (and therefore more involving and rewarding) compared to the bombast of something like "Moulin Rouge" or anything on MTV2 for that matter.

Discos represented a release for mostly gay and/or black urban dwellers who grew tired of self-serious singer/songwriter rock, prog-rock and repressed sexuality of the '70s. Though the clubs may look tacky and ancient today, they carried the same spirit back then of your average rave party. Loud, shallow music combined with the drug and/or partner of choice. Yet because of "Saturday Night Fever," this lifestyle became more popular with straight, single people, in spite of the fact that the movie didn't really glorify the decadence in the first place. Perhaps people connected with the idea that they too could take over a dance floor, if only for one night.

Others may have missed the point. "Saturday Night Fever" tells the story of a guy who needs the right friend in his life. Not the right girl, not the right foot in the door nor the right dance move, but the right friend who will make him want to be a better man. We should despise Tony, but we root for him to make more of himself. Sure, he makes that strut in the opening credits look cool and effortless, but the voice in the back of his head sounds louder to us than it does to him. How does that song at the beginning go again? "I'm going nowhere/ Somebody help me!"

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originally posted: 09/20/03 14:56:20
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User Comments

3/09/15 stanley welles a sour, cheesy and dated disco movie and featuring annoying characters 2 stars
12/20/13 Chuck Taylor Best pop culture film of all time...Gritty as Hell...Just gimme a BJ! 5 stars
12/11/12 Andrea Classic! Travolta was brilliant and the Bee Gees songs were fab!! 5 stars
5/08/12 Monday Morning There were a dozen storylines that started, then just disappeared for no reason. Lame. 3 stars
3/23/11 SailorMoonrox12 Oh yeah he's stayin' alive 5 stars
3/23/11 Suzanna wow! I'm amazed!!!!!! 5 stars
3/23/11 Julianna way better then "Thank God It's Friday" 5 stars
3/23/11 kagomefan4lyfe John Travolta is bad ass! 5 stars
3/23/11 Joanie I totally agree! lol 5 stars
3/23/11 Lizzie f*in' awesome 5 stars
3/23/11 Sandy & Stephanie (twins) two words: hell yezzz!!!! 5 stars
3/23/11 Lizzie best disco movie evrrrr!!!!!!!! 5 stars
3/21/11 Billy hmm! 1 stars
6/21/10 Sarah A classic in film making. Not dated at all, so don't listen to others. 5 stars
8/01/09 Magenta Honest look at racism & sexism; entertaining too! 5 stars
1/26/09 Emma Fantastic - a beautiful social class study. Possibly one of the best ever made. 5 stars
11/25/07 jenny greatest coming of age movie ever made 5 stars
5/31/07 t t loved john's dancing, soundtrack was awsome 5 stars
3/19/07 action movie fan engrossing shory of tough brooklyn italian youths-good dialouge 4 stars
3/09/07 New SNF fan Worth watching to see John Travolta DANCE! 5 stars
11/12/06 Alice Keymer This is fantastic. Great music and acting. Travolta's best film by far 5 stars
4/03/06 JRE best movie ever 5 stars
2/12/06 Maz Brilliant 5 stars
9/29/05 Saturated Phat Excellent for Karen Lynn Gorney's portrayal of Stephanie Mangano! 5 stars
4/05/05 dgfggh the disco looks cheap 3 stars
12/30/04 Tony Monero Living it was better than seeing it 5 stars
8/17/04 Ona Bettie I loved Tony 'cause he boogies 5 stars
5/03/04 Joe Meli I'm italian nd livin in bensonhurst brooklyn & lemme tell u we're all like tony 5 stars
2/21/04 Denise Duspiva classic 4 stars
12/07/03 john instantly brings back the late seventies - pretty good movie too 4 stars
10/14/03 Disco Duck Great nostalgia flick with a great story and best dancing of the era 5 stars
10/01/03 Alan Self-centered punk goes dancing. 3 stars
7/23/03 R.W. Welch Unusually good angst-of-youth pic with hit soundtrack thrown in at no extra charge. 4 stars
5/06/03 Dave Not much of a story, but this still has a great soundtrack. 3 stars
4/13/03 Quick Draw great when made ... good today 4 stars
3/20/03 Jack Sommersby Episodic and badly structured. But Travolta and those tunes hold it together. 4 stars
10/16/02 Charles Tatum Somewhere, L.Ron Hubbard is doing the Hustle 4 stars
9/02/02 Danielle Ophelia At the VERY LEAST, the didn't slap some happy-ass Hollywood ending on it. 4 stars
4/09/01 James People who dont like this have low IQs. This very well may be the greatest movie ever 5 stars
4/03/01 Andrew Carden Some nice dance numbers are the most you can shake out of it. 3 stars
12/04/00 Cristopher Revilla Just watch it for the dancing, but not for anything else 3 stars
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  16-Dec-1977 (R)



Directed by
  John Badham

Written by
  Norman Wexler

  John Travolta
  Karen Lynn Gormey
  Barry Miller
  Joseph Cali
  Donna Pescow
  Paul Pape

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