Stay Classy: Saturday Night Fever

Maybe you’ve never heard of it. Maybe you’ve always wanted to see it. Or maybe you’re just tired of the new. Whatever your reason, the classics are always worth a nod. Every Friday in Stay Classy, we look some of the films that started it all and how they hold up today. So sit back while we reel through the past.

 Photo: Yahoo! Movies
(Dancing in the dark.)

When you think of John Travolta, you think of one of two men (unless you're under 15 and then you probably think of a hefty woman): Danny Zuko or Tony Manero. Zuko, as you probably know, was Travolta's hot rod of a character in the campy classic, Grease. The dude is practically a household name, even with younger generations, thanks to the film's constant revival via what seems like daily syndication and of course, the recent sing-a-long version. Manero is a whole other story.

Sure, many people know Saturday Night Fever's foxy ladies man for his crisp white suit and famously point-happy dance moves. But could they tell you his name? Probably not if you weren't born in the 1970s. Because, unlike Grease, which stays alive and well in everyone's heart thanks to it's forever-campy story and pseudo-promiscuous songs, Saturday Night Fever is not ridiculous enough to inspire the same sort of insane era-defying nostalgia. It's just a sorta-sad straight-form drama that happens to include some ridiculous aspects (a Bee Gees-heavy soundtrack and the occasional  half-hearted hustle).

Saturday Night Fever follows a born-and-raised Brooklyn boy (Tony/Travolta) who hates his home life but lives for the night life. On the weekdays, he's a hardware store prince (dude hates the place and skips out whenever he can) who fights with his father and fails to measure up to his mom's high-power expectations (his brother is a priest, which is career gold in the religious Italian fam). But come Saturday night, he's the king of 2001 Odyssey, a dingy-yet-poppin' local disco. Every week he rocks the light-up dance platform - and his snazzy collection of bright suits, triangle-collared shirts and medallions - like nobody's business, picking up new moves, new fans and new chicks along the way.

Manero's a ladies man, on and off the floor, and whenever he's looking for a random good time, he flocks to his tragically lovestruck dance partner, Annette (Donna Pescow). But he's really into fellow disco diva, Stephanie (Karen Lynn Gorney). She's kind of cold - and old (girlie's a big city secretary) - for him, but he keeps hitting on her until she agrees to be his partner in dance - and awkward sexual tension.

I know, I know. The story sounds like every other coming-of-age dance flick - cheesy, tame and way stereotypical. But it's not anything like Save the Last Dance, Step Up or any of those other lame Romeo and Juliet and the Two-Step tales.  It's more or less a cheap, sexually frustrated date. Not afraid to get serious. And fast. And not in an ironic, retro-chic way.

Saturday Night Fever is more than just disco-dancing and snappy suits. Contrary to the movie's iconic, flashy poster art, it's more or less devastating, dealing with the darkness behind the dance hall daze Tony and his booze-hound friends are under. There's a rape sequence, a whole lot of racial conflict and even a suicide attempt. The movie was rated R back in the 1970s for those exact reasons (although a highly-edited PG version was released to appease young Travolta fans), and though it would probably get a 14A today, it's still kind of shocking. Especially if you're just looking for Danny Zuko dancing to "Disco Duck."

When you do get to the lighter dance-themed scenes,  prepare to be disappointed. The moves aren't nearly fever-inducing as you might imagine. In fact, they're kind of boring. Think the hustle on repeat. Sometimes I wonder how Tony got good enough to go to Broadway. I guess he did have five years more practice under his pleather belt.

Despite the Debbie Downer moments and dull dancing, Saturday Night Fever definitely worth a watch, especially if you're an old-school Travolta fan. Whether he's cheekily admiring at himself in the mirror or staring aimlessly into an empty subway while covered in blood, John seems fully immersed in Tony's lacklustre life. His bittersweet performance more than makes up for the movies faulty plot line. And if you think he looked great as a leather-jacket-laden greaser, just wait to see him strut around like the hottest shit around in his deep-v-neck disco duds. I'm surprised they didn't devote more time to having him walk around aimlessly in tight jeans. But I guess that's what my second-favourite sequel, Staying Alive, is for.


  1. Never saw the whole thing but I really have to now! LOVED Grease. Really great review.

  2. Thanks! :)

    Definitely check it out! It's worth at least one watch.