The Last Days of Disco Screen 16 articles

The Last Days of Disco

1998

The Last Days of Disco Poster
  • The point is ostensibly that disco was just on the cusp of not being any fun anymore, but unfortunately, Whit Stillman's filmmaking style has itself already passed that point of no return. However fresh and charming his earlier films, Metropolitan (1990) and Barcelona (1994), might have seemed upon their release, the new picture is a squawky, self-satisfied bore that isn't likely to get anyone's toes tapping.

  • A cleverly comic look at the early 1980s Manhattan party scene from the vantage point of the late nineties... Brimming with Stillman’s trademark dry humor, The Last Days of Disco is an affectionate yet unsentimental look at the end of an era.

  • It's remarkable how over the course of just three “nightlife” features—Metropolitan, Barcelona, and this comedy set in the early 1980s—writer-director Whit Stillman has created a form of mannerist dialogue as recognizable as David Mamet's, a kind of self-conscious, upper-crust Manhattan gab reeking of hairsplitting cultural distinctions. Fortunately, this time around the Ivy League characters project less of a glib sense of entitlement, making them more fun to watch.

  • It's the juxtaposition of uptight neurotics with an atmosphere of get-down decadence that makes Disco so much fun to watch -- it's as if characters from an Austen novel had somehow been plonked into Lambada: The Movie.

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    The New York Daily News: Dave Kehr
    May 29, 1998? | Via Metacritic

    A small miracle of comic social portraiture, a sometimes affectionate, sometimes ironic study of a specific group at a specific moment. [Stillman's] work is deeply evocative and enjoyable.

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    The New York Daily News: David Sterritt
    May 29, 1998? | Via Metacritic

    Stillman brings his usual sharp wit to this exploration of upper-middle-class angst, completing the comic trilogy he began with "Metropolitan" and "Barcelona."

  • [Mr. Stillman] has earned the right to put whatever gloss he wants on this scene because of an anachronistic charm and audacity in his sensibility that enables his innocent goldfish to swim safely past the urban sharks hovering in the vicinity. One can quibble over the plausibility of much of the crackpot dialogue, but why bother when Mr. Stillman generates so much fun out of the spectacle of young people cavorting on the crowded dance floor with mindless lyricism.

  • Like Metropolitan and Barcelona, it's a brittle, sporadically brilliant film, very funny but rooted in social, political, historical and emotional realities. Beckinsale, especially, is a revelation, making Charlotte smug, spiteful, sexy and, underneath, rather sad, all with a spot-on accent.

  • The Last Days of Disco is the third installment in Stillman’s “Doomed Bourgeois In Love” trilogy. Unlike Metropolitan and Barcelona, which take place “not so long ago,”Disco belongs to a definite time, “the very early ‘80s.” This specificity strips Disco of the fairytale quality of its predecessors, but lends it a pair of sharp teeth.

  • What Stillman crafted by smarmily turning back the clock is not only a pithily coruscating Bildungsroman for the new millennium but a useful handbook of the soured generational relations that develop when the next round of young professionals are none too eager to yank the torch from Mom and Dad just yet.

  • Its closest artistic ancestor, for my money, is Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest. Both are comedies of manners in which any one of the leading ladies could conceivably, at the close of the story, end up matched with any one of the leading men without our sympathies being vexed, so long as we can imagine that all these clever people will go on talking and interacting cleverly with one another beyond the final curtain or credits, eternally.

  • Some formidable indie filmmakers emerged in [Stillman's] wake, but not so many, and few who can sum up the strengths and flaws of a character with a single line or a single image, the way Stillman does in Disco when he has Beckinsale sauté some delicious-looking shrimp, then drown them in cream of mushroom soup.

  • Like Edith Wharton’s The Age of Innocence, The Last Days of Disco is also a portrait of a society on the verge of changing into something else. Like Wharton’s novel, it’s a lament for a disintegrating thing of beauty. Stillman’s particular beautiful thing isn’t youth or the city, but a world where, once you get past the door, everything is full of possibility and you get to dance while exploring it. Maybe those things are all the same.

  • Chloe Sevigny demonstrates the expressive potential of downcast eyes, and Chris Eigeman reconfirms his mastery of Stillman’s distinctive cadences, but it’s Matt Keeslar’s manic sentimentalist who gets the girl. Exulting in their Epic and Important – and vibrantly soundtracked – Zeitgeist, he embodies Stillman’s celebration of dancing along the thin line between self-awareness and delusion. A masterful evocation of the giddiness and instantaneous nostalgia of waning youth.

  • It's in its splendid wordiness that The Last Days of Disco truly betrays its influences: Its roots are in the screwball comedies of '30s and '40s, in the boundless loquacity of films like The Palm Beach Story and His Girl Friday. And Stillman, for his part, is perhaps the closest thing this generation has or indeed ever will have to a contemporary Lubitsch or Sturges. The Last Days of Disco certainly makes the case that he has the ear (and wit) to qualify.

  • Like Stillman’s prior films Metropolitan and Barcelona, Last Days of Disco is a dry, wry, quick-witted ensemble comedy centered on the relationship misadventures of what in Metropolitan is referred to the “urban haute bourgeoisie.” The film packs a memorable soundtrack filled with vintage disco tracks, some clumsy dance moves, and a delightful finale involving New York subway commuters dancing spontaneously to “Love Train” by The O’Jays.

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