[Screen It]


(1998) (Chloe Sevigny, Kate Beckinsale) (R)

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

Drama: A group of upper-middle class graduates and professionals examine their lives and relationships while spending time in an early 80's disco.
Alice Kinnon (CHLOE SEVIGNY) and Charlotte Pingress (KATE BECKINSALE) are recent Hampshire college graduates who work as lowly book publisher assistants. Although they never got along in college and aren't really friends, their collective need for a place to live forces them to rent a cramped apartment with another woman, Holly (TARA SUBKOFF). While Alice is the more subdued, "good girl," Charlotte is an aggressively opinionated and smug woman who believes she can help Alice's poor social life.

Thus, they head off to the local hot disco where Alice spots Jimmy Steinway (MACKENZIE ASTIN), a man she finds attractive and whose position at an ad agency depends on him getting clients into the club. Unfortunately for him, the club's shady owner, Bernie Rafferty (DAVID THORNTON), doesn't want ad people in his establishment, and thus tells one of his mangers, Des McGrath (CHRISTOPHER EIGEMAN), to remove Jimmy, his friend. Des already has his own share of problems including his ambiguous sexuality as well as a growing drug problem, not to mention that his college buddy, Josh Neff (MATT KEESLAR), now an assistant district attorney, is investigating the club.

While the Harvard men and the Hampshire women intermingle and discuss their lives and careers, Charlotte hooks up with Jimmy and Alice sleeps with Tom Platt (ROBERT SEAN LEONARD), a lawyer and another of Des' college buddies. As the months pass and the last days of disco approach, the group ponders a wide variety of issues.

Some older teens just might, especially if they're fans of someone in the cast or of the Disco era, but this "talky" film will have no appeal to preteens.
For some elements involving sexuality and drugs.
  • CHLOE SEVIGNY plays the reserved and socially awkward young woman who hangs out at the disco, drinks most of the time and ends up getting V.D. from a man with whom she had a one night stand.
  • KATE BECKINSALE plays the aggressively opinionated young woman who also frequents the club, drinks a lot and freely speaks her mind without thinking that she might offend someone or hurt their feelings.
  • CHRISTOPHER EIGEMAN plays a manager at the club who can't decide upon his sexual preference and turns out to be a drug addict.
  • MATT KEESLAR plays an assistant district attorney whose uses lithium to regulate his depressive state, and who's torn between his friendship with Des and his duty to his job that involves investigating the club.
  • MACKENZIE ASTIN plays an ad agency man who's preoccupied with losing his job if he can't get clients into the club and later he has a relationship with Charlotte.


    OUR TAKE: 6.5 out of 10
    Playing more like David Mamet meets Seinfeld than either "Saturday Night Fever" or "Boogie Nights," writer/director Whit Stillman's latest "indie" film has the requisite, thumping disco soundtrack, outrageous attire and colorful light shows, but it's more about a group of upscale twentysomething's discussing their lives and careers then the musical era itself. Featuring a meandering and near pointless plot, but some clever and quite often funny dialogue, the film probably won't appeal to mainstream audiences, but should please fans of art house fare.

    Much like playwright turned filmmaker David Mamet ("The Spanish Prisoner"), Stillman has an exceptional ear and brilliant gift for writing dialogue. His previous films, 1990's "Metropolitan" (for which he received an Oscar nomination for best screenplay) and 1994's "Barcelona," are noted for their heavy use of talk and a cast of intelligently crafted characters, and Stillman certainly doesn't stray from that formula here. While the plot is the film's weakest element and often flip flops about without ever getting anywhere, it's the richly drawn and diverse characters that make the film interesting and fun to watch.

    Similar to the TV show "Seinfeld" with its cast of likeable, but essentially petty characters, this is a film about a group of people who sit around and talk about "nothing." Of course that nothing refers to unexciting events such as their social lives and commenting on mundane subjects that no one, other than Jerry and company, would even care or bother to examine. The characters intelligently and often humorously discuss socializing as a group versus pairing off as couples, whether they should be classified as yuppies (not that there's anything wrong with that), if women are drawn to men who are bad instead of ones who are weak and indecisive, and a monologue discusses the future of disco music playing off our common hindsight of its recent resurgence.

    Then there's the scene that moviegoers and critics alike will probably mention the most after seeing this film and that's where the group clinically dissects and debates the merits of the animated film, "The Lady and the Tramp." The several minute scene is quite funny in the disparate ways in which each character analyzes that picture's characters and plot (ie. Arguing about whether Tramp changed during the film, the moral message of the story, etc...) and it displays a bevy of humorous and sharp writing.

    The performances are also quite good with the ladies surprisingly, but pleasantly, inhabiting the more developed of the characters. Chloe Sevigny ("Kids," "Palmetto") is effective as the more reserved of the leads and is easily the most sympathetic of the characters. Kate Beckinsale, on the other hand, who was so charming as the med. student in "Shooting Fish," really puts on the "bitchy" act here, and is what you'd imagine if "indie" film favorite Parker Posey played a grown up "Heather" from the movie, "Heathers" and frequented the disco scene (meaning she's socially smug with a touch of mean and nasty thrown in).

    The male performers are also good in their own right, but with similar good looks it takes a while to differentiate them by sight. The stand outs are Christopher Eigeman (who appeared in Whitman's other films) as the club's sexually ambiguous manager and Matt Keeslar ("Sour Grapes," "Mr. Magoo") as the morally torn assistant D.A. with a love for discos and dancing.

    Technical credits are good all around with cinematographer John Thomas' lense work and production designer Ginger Tougas' sets perfectly capturing the look of the upscale disco era. Those expecting Travolta style dance numbers, however, will be disappointed. Although the soundtrack is jam packed with tunes from the late 70's and early 80's, the dancing consists only of the crowded dance floor variety, although it retains its toe-tapping, boogie-in-your-seat, infectious nature.

    While it would have been nice had Stillman delivered a better constructed plot -- some scenes often come out of nowhere and the film has a definite disjointed feel to it -- the sharply written characters and dialogue mostly make up for that deficiency. Certainly not for everyone's tastes and not as funny as the better episodes of "Seinfeld" that focused on nothing, this film should please those looking for a decidedly cerebral and talky look at the end of a musical era that most claimed to hate, but secretly loved. We give "The Last Days of Disco" a 6.5 out of 10.

    While it's doubtful any but the oldest of teens will want to see this film (or will have the patience to sit through the dialogue-heavy moments), here's a quick look at the content. Some drug use exists, but beyond a guy smoking a joint, most of it is implied and occurs off camera. Most of the characters, however, do drink throughout the production although no one gets rip roaring drunk. A few moments of nudity occur (one in a brief sexual encounter), and one scene does contain racy sexual dialogue. For a film set in this time and location, the profanity is surprisingly mild (with several "s" words and others) and violence is limited to one brief beating and some milder material. If you or someone in your home wishes to see this film, you may want to take a look through the listings to determine if it's appropriate for you and/or anyone else.

    Of SPECIAL NOTE for those affected by flashing lights there are two scenes in this movie that contain such material. The opening credits flash on the screen, while a later scene in the disco has a true strobe effect that covers the entire screen and lasts for several seconds.

  • Alice, Charlotte and most of the other characters have drinks (vodka tonics, whiskey sours, beer, etc...) in their hands whenever they're at the club -- as do many background characters -- or in other scenes.
  • Des is a drug user (apparently cocaine), but we only see him right after he's taken the drugs. We do see Bernie, however, light up a joint. In a later scene, Des asks if coffee has the same effect as cocaine. After Alice says that's what she's heard, Des tries to snort coffee from a cup.
  • Alice and Tom have liquor at his place.
  • The ladies and their dates drink beer and wine at a dinner party.
  • What appear to be packets of cocaine fall from Bernie's log book.
  • Josh has a tiny bit of blood in the corner of his mouth and some drops on his shirt after getting hit (we don't see the violence).
  • In an emergency room we see a man whose face and shirt are rather bloody and then see Jimmy who's got a bloody nose and some blood on his shirt.
  • Charlotte has both as not only does she look down on Alice (thinking she's a social reject), but she also openly speaks her mind without worrying about whether she's being mean (and Alice is occasionally the recipient of her scathing comments). She's also quite conceited and smug and mentions to Alice that she hated her in college and talked guys out of asking Alice out for dates.
  • Des tells several of his girlfriends that he believes he's gay, but since we never see any such behavior (and after he hooks up with Alice) that may partially be just an easy way to break up with them. He also has sex with another woman while supposedly seeing Alice.
  • Bernie has both as he's skimming money from his club and also appears to be running a drug operation there (and doesn't want ad agency people in his club because they're "too nice").
  • Charlotte publicly announces that she believes that Alice "has the clap" (V.D.).
  • There's a brief comment made about the Bible being the first published book after just mentioning other "mumbo jumbo" books.
  • None.
  • We see some TV footage of a box of disco albums being blown up with some sort of explosive.
  • Bat: Used by a man to hit Jimmy outside the club.
  • Phrases: "Bitch" (said by Charlotte about herself and later about Alice, and by a man toward Alice), "Screw" and "Horny" (sexual), "Jerk," "Idiot," "Meatball," "Sucks," "Dope," "Creep," "Yuppie scum," Slutty," "Nuts" (crazy), "Shut up," "Scumbag," "Loon," "Nutcase," and "Freakazoid."
  • Des asks if coffee has the same effect as cocaine. After Alice says that's what she's heard, Des tries to snort coffee from a cup.
  • None.
  • None.
  • None.
  • At least 4 "s" words, 1 ass (used with "hole"), 1 crap, and 20 uses of "God," 6 uses of "Oh my God," 2 uses of "Jesus Christ," and 1 use each of "Jesus" and "My God" as exclamations.
  • Several women in the club occasionally show some cleavage in their outfits, as do Alice and Charlotte in other scenes.
  • We briefly see a bare-breasted woman on the dance floor.
  • About his reported homosexuality, one of Des' girlfriends says, "Every time you made love to me you must have wanted to vomit." Later, another confronts him and asks if he's had sex with other men (he never answers either way).
  • Although we don't see anything, Alice has sex with Tom from which she gets V.D. Later they talk about that and whether she was a virgin when they had sex: "So you think I gave it to you." Yeah, I'm pretty sure." "You were more active than I was. You were more experienced." She says no and he then responds, "How did you know all of that?" "I read." "You must have been with some guys...You weren't a virgin." She then says, "Technically, if you're making love and the man spurts outside the woman, does that count as sexual intercourse?" "Spurts?" "If it squirts without getting in, does that count as losing your virginity?" He asks, "No part of the man got in at any time?" "I don't think so." "I think part has to get in to be considered sexual intercourse." He then adds, "I can't believe that the first time you made love I gave you "g" and "h" (gonorrhea and herpes).
  • We see several gay men dancing in the club and in one scene one caresses the other (both are shirtless).
  • Tom tells Alice that he was curious about the sexual revolution and whether it had gone as far as everyone had said. He then says that it had, but that he couldn't handle it. He then questions why people's I.Q.'s drop whenever they think about having sex with strangers.
  • Charlotte mentions that she can tell if a man is gay by looking into his eyes. She then comments that Des doesn't have gay eyes, but that he does have a "gay mouth."
  • Des tells a story about being with a girl in high school where she suddenly whisked off her shirt and he was confronted by her bare breasts.
  • Charlotte tells Alice that she's "late" (with her period), and when Alice asks how long, Charlotte responds "a day."
  • We briefly see a nude woman lying on top of Des on a couch. As Des scrambles to get up, we see her bare breasts as she sits nude on the couch (her legs are crossed).
  • Des smokes a few times and we also see Charlotte, Bernie and Jimmy smoke.
  • Background characters smoke in and outside the club throughout the movie.
  • Charlotte briefly mentions her parents getting divorced when she was younger.
  • Venereal diseases. Alice gets that from a one-night stand, but other than behaving awkwardly (and Charlotte saying it's no big deal and may even prove to be advantageous -- in her own thinking), this doesn't seem to be a big deal.
  • Depression and the use of lithium to treat that condition (there's some brief talk about Josh needing that medication).
  • The disco era.
  • Josh has a tiny bit of blood in the corner of his mouth after getting hit (we don't see the violence).
  • We see some TV footage of a box of disco albums being blown up with some sort of explosive at a ballpark. We then see people tearing down a batting cage and setting fires on the field.
  • Several men approach the club and one of them suddenly hits Jimmy in the face with a bat (resulting in a trip to the emergency room and a bloody nose).
  • Josh kicks in a door at the club looking for Des.

  • Reviewed May 26, 1998

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