First of all, I love the 70s. Everything about this John Badham film screams the 70s. The style, the hair, the dancing–it is a fantastic exploration of America’s past culture. I loved it. But watching something like this might make me think that everywhere in the States was like Brooklyn in ’76. I’m already a fan of Travolta, although his acting is dated. The fact that he was nominated for best actor shows that his acting was appreciated in the 70s. Maybe it was the cinematography that made his acting dated–the lack of close up shots in comparison to now. The long editing could also have played a part. By this I mean that the editing is slow–especially in the beginning. I noticed a lot of dead room in shots, and also a lot of repeats of shots. For example, when in school, I was always told to avoid telling the audience the same thing over and over again. We understand that he is walking down the street with a paint can and that the low angled shots imply he feels empowered, but now we would like some new information.
I am getting ahead of myself. For those of you who are wondering, Saturday Night Fever is a classic–a coming of age film that represents the time after birth control and before AIDS. It will forever be what people know John Travolta for. It is his staple film, even more so than the 1977 hit Grease. His character Tony is a Brooklyn native whose goal in life is to dance. He works days at the local hardware store and blows all his money at the disco every weekend. All of the girls love him, and one in particular (Annette) would do anything to have him. He is in his own world, especially when he dances. He loves the attention and is very well aware of his status among his peers. One night at the disco, he sees a girl who is a dancer like no one he has ever seen before. Stephanie (Karen Lynn Gorney) is also a Brooklyn native. She has just recently started a job in Manhattan.
In a sense, Saturday Night Fever is a character study with a lot of dancing. A twist on Romeo and Juliet, which we are kindly clued in on through Tony and Stephanie’s first “coffee” date (which is really a tea date because that’s what all the women are drinking these days, didn’t you know?). It becomes more and more obvious that Stephanie is a name dropper and wants so badly to be more than what she is. She does everything she can to embarrass Tony and to put him down. In her mind she is too good for Tony. Tony likewise wants more than what he has–all he wants to do with his life is dance. His father very clearly wants more for him, but what more can you ask from a 19-year-old who doesn’t want to go to college?
When Tony and Stephanie find that they can’t communicate with words, they communicate through dance. Tony’s life is all encompassed by dance–his life and dance are one in the same. Therefore, if someone implies that he get an education or search out a career, his very life is being called into question. The original BeeGees songs that back many of Tony’s scenes are representative of his inner monologue, stripping the film of its subtlety. Everything in the film is very rhythmic.
I gave the film 3 out of 5 stars. I’m not a huge fan of R rated films for the sex, nudity, drugs, and language, all of which are a huge part of Saturday Night Fever. Also, the cinematography was exaggerated, the editing was loose, and the entire film was too long. The acting was acceptable, as well as the dancing, but from someone who watches “So You Think You Can Dance” religiously, I was only mildly entertained. If you would like to watch a dated, fictitious representation of Brooklyn in the 1970s, and see John Travolta in all his glory, this should definitely be added to your list of films to watch.
Have you seen Saturday Night Fever? What did you think?
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