Ah the disco trends of the late 70s. Such an interesting era for music and clothing. Not much else that I can say, it’s just fun.
Ladies and gents… “Saturday Night Fever”.
Tony Manero (John Travolta) has a pretty shitty family life, always getting put down by his parents. So to get away from that shitshow, he often goes to a local dance club, where he absolutely dominates. So we follow Tony as he deals with life. And this plot is as mediocre as it gets. It tries to be layered, it tries to be nuanced… but it’s not. It thinks itself clever, but it’s a shallow and uninteresting look at the life of this dude. The tone is also all over the place. Now, I can watch a movie switch between tones without any issue as long as the writing is good enough to make the switch feel natural. But the writing here isn’t good enough to carry the tonal changes that occur throughout the movie. This movie doesn’t always know what it wants to be. Is it a character study or is it a boogie-woogie dramedy? Because either way, the plot here never really goes above a “meh”.
The characters in this sometimes feel like they have personality, but in the end I feel like they are mostly these inconsistent husks. John Travolta plays Tony Manero, the kid with the titular medical condition. Working class jerk by day, boogie-woogie master by night. He is a very inconsistent character. Sometimes he’s a total douchebag, and sometimes he’s a nice dude. This isn’t natural character growth for him even, as it just kinda happens on a dime. At least Travolta gives a good performance. We also get supporting work from people like Karen Lynn Gorney, Barry Miller, Joseph Cali, Paul Pape, Donna Pescow, Martin Shakar, and more. And while most of the characters could’ve used a few rewrites, the performances were good.
There was a score at a few points in this movie, composed by David Shire. And it was fine, it’s not too noticeable. But you know what is noticeable? All the disco music throughout. Bee Gees, The Trammps, KC and the Sunshine Band, there’s a ton of old school stuff here, and it’s awesome. Not just because it’s overall a bunch of fun music, but because it just works so well for the setting, it helps really build a mood and give the movie some extra energy. So yeah, this movie has good music.
This movie was directed by John Badham, and I think he did a good job here. While the story and writing is lacking, Badham’s direction gives it all an energy that makes it so much easier to watch and feel invested in. And let’s get to the elephant in the room, the dance sequences. For what is a disco inferno without someone lighting up the dance floor? Well, I have to admit, the dance sequences in this are fucking incredible. The way that the character movement blends with the cinematography makes for some really mesmerizing sequences.
This movie has been pretty well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has an 85% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 77/100. Roger Ebert gave it 4/4 stars. And on imdb.com it has a score of 6,8/10. The movie was nominated for 1 Oscar in the category of Best actor (Travolta).
Soooo, a lot of people call “Saturday Night Fever” a classic. But I think it’s just… fine. It has a meh plot, meh characters, good performances, great music, and really good directing. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Saturday Night Fever” is a 6,11/10. So while very flawed, it can still be worth a rental.
My review of “Saturday Night Fever” is now completed.
Oh dear. Boogie woogies out of the room.
2 thoughts on “Movie Review: Saturday Night Fever (1977)”
Maybe you have to be a ‘certain age’, but I was, and I loved that film. I even bought the soundtrack album!
However, it was of its time, and when I last watched it, I agree it felt dated. Still, for nostalgia reasons, I am very fond of it even now.
Best wishes, Pete.
“Meh” is the perfect word for this film. It just isn’t a great movie.