It was inevitable that films would take a look back at the disco era. Whit Stillman’s comedy-drama The Last Days of Disco is in the first nostalgic volley, with more to come later. However, filled with good characters, and sharp dialogue, The Last Days of Disco holds promise that these films may be more enduring than the era itself.
The film centers around a group of yuppies who have latched onto the tail end of the disco era (in the very early 1980s). Alice (Chloë Sevigny) and Charlotte (Kate Beckinsale) work in a publishing house and have recently become roommates. Alice is the shyer of the two, and has latched onto the brash Charlotte as an inappropriate role model.
The men in their lives aren’t terribly inspiring. Des (Chris Eigeman) is the womanizing club manager, who’s willing to overlook anything (from criminal activity to the duties of friendship). Jimmy (Mackenzie Astin) is a struggling junior ad exec, who’s used merely as a tool to get clients access to the exclusive clubs. And there’s Josh (Matthew Keeslar) the assistant D.A. who might be creepier than the rest of them combined.
The film brews an odd mixture of nostalgia and contempt for the era. The time is depicted as simple and free, and yet shallow and naive. The characters are brimming with self importance, as if they’re on the dawn of a new era, when actually they’re at its dusk.
Alice is easily the most sympathetic character of the film, but by no means the most interesting. That honor goes to Charlotte. Kate Beckinsale (with a flawless American accent) portrays her with an intoxicating mix of cruelty and seductiveness.
The dialogue is what makes The Last Days of Disco truly stand out from the crowd. With comments ranging from the apt to the vapid, Whit Stillman’s script crackles with wit.
The Last Days of Disco is a fascinating film to watch, whether you were a supporter of “the disco movement”, or one who cheered when it died.