[Screen It]


(1998) (Ryan Phillippe, Mike Myers) (R)

Blood/Gore Disrespectful/
Bad Attitude
Tense Scenes
Extreme Minor Moderate Minor Minor
Minor None None Minor Extreme
Smoking Tense Family
Topics To
Talk About
Extreme Moderate Minor Mild Minor

Drama: A young man is seduced by the decadent and freewheeling, late 1970's lifestyle of working at the infamous New York disco, Studio 54.
Shane O'Shea (RYAN PHILLIPPE) is a young Jersey kid who dreams of attending the splashy discos across the river in New York. Pumping gas for a job and living with his widowed dad and two younger sisters, including Grace (HEATHER MATARAZZO), Shane longs for the life of hobnobbing with the rich and famous.

Talking his friends into driving into the city, they arrive at Studio 54, the hottest club and "in" place to be seen. There, the club's gay owner, Steve Rubell (MIKE MYERS), who has the final say of who may enter his hedonistic playground, spots Shane and invites him in. Rubell has a thing for hiring attractive, young men, and Shane soon finds himself employed there as a busboy. Amazed not only by the celebrities present, such as soap star, Julie Black (NEVE CAMPBELL) to whom he's instantly attracted, Shane also can't believe the copious and conspicuous partaking of booze, drugs and sex throughout the club.

Learning the ropes from fellow busboy Greg (BRECKIN MEYER), who's married to one of the club's hatcheck girls and would-be singer, Anita (SALMA HAYEK), Shane longs to become one of the club's bartenders. Achieving that status means instant stardom and notoriety, and Shane gets help from a well-to-do older businesswoman, Billie Auster (SELA WARD), who may also be able to help Anita's fledgling musical career.

As Shane's star rises in the club and he finally gets Julie to notice him, events in the club begin to signal the beginning of the end. Steve, who's been skimming money from the club's business for months, has become increasingly arrogant, thus bringing the attention of the feds, not to mention concern from his longtime business accountant, Viv (SHERRY STRINGFIELD). Meanwhile, Greg has been taking some of that money for himself and selling drugs on the side to the likes of Disco Dottie (ELLEN ALBERTINI DOW), an elderly club regular, as well as many others.

While Steve and his club's problems mount, Shane tries to sort out what's best for him and decide whether the fast-paced and carefree club lifestyle is really all that he originally thought it was cut it out to be.

Stars such as Neve Campbell may draw in some teens, but it's doubtful many will have any interest in this story that took place before most were born.
For sexuality, drug use and language.
  • RYAN PHILLIPPE plays a young Jersey kid who gets seduced by the decadence of the club's lifestyle. As such, he takes drugs and has casual sex with many women.
  • MIKE MYERS plays the club's gay owner who rules the establishment while under a near continual influence of drugs, and skims money from the club's take for himself.
  • NEVE CAMPBELL plays a soap opera star who frequents the club hoping to network herself into bigger acting parts, and who smokes some.
  • BRECKIN MEYER plays Shane's new buddy and coworker who also does drugs, as well as steals money that's already been skimmed from the books, and sells drugs on the side.
  • SALMA HAYEK plays one of the club's hatcheck girls who aspires to become a recording artist and who has seemingly ample supplies of cocaine.


    OUR TAKE: 2.5 out of 10
    As the recent and reborn fascination with the 1970's continues, and contrary to the hatred the music inspired not long after it all but disappeared, we're confronted with yet another disco film this year. Unlike, Whit Stillman's talky "The Last Days of Disco," however, this entry is nowhere near as well-made or enjoyable.

    For a film based on the center of the disco universe, it surprisingly lacks the ability to truly capture the essence that made disco so popular -- which Stillman so easily captured and allowed to permeate his film. Likewise, it's missing the brilliant direction and stylistic ambience of "Boogie Nights," and the sheer dramatic depth that made that film, as well as "Saturday Night Fever," such critical hits. As a result, this film has nothing new or particularly compelling to offer beyond a brilliant performance from comedian turned serious actor, Mike Myers.

    If not for the historical knowledge of the wild times of the infamous, late 1970's New York discotheque, Studio 54, one would never get that impression from watching this film. Sure there's the open use of drugs and public displays of sexual behavior -- along with the overuse and too obvious voice over narration that describes all of that -- but the film never manages to bring us to the party. We're voyeurs instead of participants, and the film comes off feeling more like an abridged history lesson than a full exploration of what made the club what it was.

    Part of that stems from writer/director Mark Christopher's (making his mainstream feature directorial debut) decision to focus his attention on a fictitious young Jersey man and his interaction with the club and its regulars, instead of putting the club, and its sleazy and pleasure delivering owner, Steve Rubell, under the spotlight.

    Essentially a retreading of the standard storyline where a naive but willing blue collar young man falls prey to the seduction of the party lifestyle and eventually realizes life isn't greener on the other side of the club's velvet ropes, the film's dramatic elements nearly all but miss the boat completely. Unlike "Boogie Nights" and "Saturday Night Fever" which perfectly captured the wild 70's lifestyle while providing some meaty and well-conceived dramatic moments, "54" -- when not focused on Rubell -- feels boring and trite.

    Not only can we guess that the young man will be seduced, become popular, and then realize the errors of his ways, but the film also manages to throw in a subplot where the feds are investigating Rubell's money skimming practices. While that really happened and led to the club's eventual demise from its glory days, the proceedings hold little dramatic weight and consequently never involve the audience.

    The only thing the film has going for it is the fine performance from Mike Myers ("Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery," the "Wayne's World" films) as the club's seedy and hedonistic owner. Appropriately bleary eyed from heavy drug use and sporting a near constant sweaty leer, Myers delivers a great dramatic performance that's worlds apart from his previous roles.

    Unfortunately, the same can't be said for the remaining cast members and their performances. Ryan Phillippe ("I Know What You Did Last Summer," "White Squall") gets the lead role, but brings nearly nothing to his pretty boy persona -- a fault of both his acting and a weakly constructed character. Poor in comparison to the performances given in similarly constructed roles by Travolta and Mark Wahlberg (in "Saturday Night Fever" and "Boogie Nights" respectively), Phillippe may look good, but that's about it.

    The same holds true for the other better known performers, including Neve Campbell (the "Scream" films, "Wild Things") and Salma Hayeck ("Fools Rush In," "Desperado"). Both are clearly wasted in even more shallowly developed characters, and beyond being easy on the eyes, can't do much with what they've been given to work.

    The lackluster and poorly executed disco scenes, however, come as the biggest surprise. Unlike the other previously mentioned films set in that era, this one fails to get the audience to "shake (their) groove thing" as one would expect from a film such as this. Mostly second-rate tunes comprise the soundtrack, and the limited dance scenes fail to capture what made disco (no matter how much people hated it then or even now) -- and Studio 54 -- so popular.

    Had the dramatic scenes featuring Shane's character been better constructed or inhabited by a more gifted and charismatic lead (think of a young Travolta), the film may have survived that amazing deficiency. Unfortunately it doesn't, and one is left wanting to know much more about the studio and its hedonistic owner, but instead gets a run-of-the-mill rags to riches to eventual enlightenment tale. Not bad enough to induce the urge to walk out before the finale, the film still has to be considered a major disappointment considering the wasted potential. We give "54" a 2.5 out of 10.

    Here's a quick look at the film's content. Alcohol and drug use is extreme with many scenes of people drinking as well as consuming various drugs. Profanity is also extreme with at least 20 uses of the "f" word and an assortment of others, and several sexual encounters and near homosexual oral sex scenes give that category an extreme rating as well. Beyond that and in comparison, most of the other categories don't have a great deal of major objectionable material. Nonetheless, you may want to take a closer look at the content.

    Of special note, for those concerned with repetitive flashing lights, several scenes have full screen displays of that during the film.

  • People drink throughout the film in scenes set in the disco (and elsewhere) where booze flows freely.
  • Shane's dad has a beer.
  • Julie drinks champagne.
  • Greg lights up a joint, takes a hit, and passes it to Shane who does the same.
  • Steve appears drugged up/intoxicated throughout much of the movie (occasionally seen taking some sort of pills -- possibly barbiturates), and upon returning home in one scene, drinks liquor straight from the bottle.
  • Steve tells his accountant to throw away her "nasty weed" because she's beginning to sound paranoid.
  • Shane takes one of Steve's pills. To counter this, Anita later pours some cocaine on his hand and gets him to snort it.
  • Anita later gives Shane a vial of coke to give to Billie. We then see this woman snorting the cocaine as well as smoking a joint along with others.
  • Other bartenders pour beer into and onto Shane after he joins them as the newest bartender.
  • People smoke joints in an underground area of the club.
  • Greg becomes a drug dealer.
  • Shane, Greg and Anita each pop a pill and down them with champagne.
  • Shane tells his sister that his doing drugs is just like their dad drinking beer. Having just seen a small bong in his car, his sister than says that she wants to try one of his pills, but he knocks it from her hand.
  • Disco Dottie snorts some coke and then overdoses and we see her convulsing on the floor (she dies moments later).
  • We see Steve partially vomit and see some material/spittle hang from his mouth.
  • A tiny bit of blood runs from Disco Dottie's nose after she overdoses.
  • Shane takes his father's car when he's asleep (and without his permission).
  • Shane gets a little bit of a conceited attitude once he becomes one of the popular bartenders.
  • Not only is Steve skimming money from his own operation (for unreported income), but he publicly flaunts his arrogance toward the feds.
  • Some upperclass types make fun of Anita and Shane, and end up calling him a troglodyte.
  • Greg starts stealing portions of the money Steve's skimming, and uses it to buy and then sell drugs.
  • Steve wants Shane to continue working as if nothing happened after Disco Dottie dies from an overdose.
  • Some may find a scene where an older woman overdoses and dies on the disco floor as a little tense.
  • Handgun: Briefly seen in some news clips from the 1970's.
  • Phrases: "Balled" and "Getting laid" (for sex), "Chicks," "Jackass turkey," "Rat bastard," "Puss," "Eat me raw" and "Take a leak."
  • Leaving New Jersey, Shane gives "the finger" to the state.
  • None.
  • None.
  • A song contains the lyrics, "Let's make love....Let's do it."
  • At least 20 "f" words (2 used sexually as is the word "balled"), 12 "s" words, 2 slang terms for male genitals ("c*ck"), 6 asses (2 used with "hole"), 1 damn, 1 hell, and 1 use each of "Oh my God" and "For Christ's sakes" as exclamations.
  • When Shane mentions that Jacqueline Bisset was at 54 and asks a friend if he knows who she is, the friend says, "Yeah, I f*cked her."
  • Various women (including Anita in several shots) show varying amounts of cleavage in the outfits they wear throughout the movie.
  • Shane walks through the club and comes across a man and woman having sex out in front of everyone. We see movement and her bare breasts (as well as hear sounds) as she has sex sitting on his lap.
  • We see two male performers wearing nothing but tiny G-strings and briefly see their bare butts when they turn around.
  • One of Shane's female coworkers, apparently talking about some man she saw or was with, comments, "He was this big" as she puts a squeezable bottle of ketchup on the table. Another coworker then comments, "It's not the size, but the motion of the ocean."
  • Among the items collected by the staff and displayed on a table is a dildo.
  • Steve tells Greg, "I want to suck your c*ck." Greg tells him he's straight and married, but Steve implies (without much coercion) that this is the way for him to get the coveted bartender position. Greg starts to undo his pants, but rethinks that and leaves. Later he tells his wife, "I don't suck c*ck."
  • Disco Dottie asks Shane, "How about the best f*ck of your lifetime?"
  • Commenting that he has a great body, Billie runs her hands down inside Shane's pants, but nothing else happens right then.
  • We later hear sexual sounds and see lots of movement (but no nudity or actual contact) as Billie has sex on top of Shane.
  • Shane goes into Steve's office and starts to undo his pants (thinking it's his only way of getting the bartending job), but Steve comments that he should be the one taking off his pants, not Shane, and the young man then leaves.
  • We see Shane's bare butt as he gets out of bed in a montage of him being in bed with many women (on separate occasions) and we see a sleeping woman's bare breast, but no activity.
  • Later, Shane learns that he has "the clap" (gonorrhea).
  • People smoke throughout the many scenes set in the club and in other scenes, including Anita, Greg, Shane and Julie who smoke once or a few times.
  • Shane mentions (in voice over) that his mom died when he was twelve (leaving the dad to raise him and his two younger sisters). Things get a bit tense when Shane moves out, and later when he returns home for Christmas and his sister informs him that their dad doesn't want him around anymore.
  • The historical accuracy of the story.
  • Being seduced by glamour, fame, drugs, and a freewheeling lifestyle.
  • Greg punches a wall in anger when he doesn't get the bartending job.
  • Shane throws his small bong from his car, where we hear it break on the street.
  • Shane pushes Steve back into a wall.

  • Reviewed August 28, 1998

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