Three years ago, I wrote briefly for the now defunct eyepiece.com. The following was a review dated May 30, 1998.
The Last Days of Disco
Castle Rock, Rated R
While other filmmakers might have their heads buried in sociopolitical satire, Whit Stillman is out there doing social scene satire. As the master of preppy angst, there's no better writer/director to do so. You might well credit Stillman's 1990 film Metropolitan with the recent Hollywood fascination with Jane Austen. The Last Days of Disco has sex, has drugs, has rock and roll, all generously served up with mockery that pulls back just in time before falling over the precipice of Zuckeresque farce.
It's the early 1980's, just before the phrase "Disco Sucks" rears its ugly head. We observe the mating rituals of recent college graduates in their natural habitat - the disco scene - where aspiring scions and debutantes from Harvard and Radcliffe embark on their careers of ambitious banality, liberally mixing business with pleasure, armed with their uncanny ability to intellectualize everything from Bambi to venereal disease (and stipends from their parents while they "make it" in the real world). While refusing to accept the label of "yuppie," these young and downwardly mobile professionals still refuse to give up the secret hope of actually becoming one (or at least marrying one).
Christoper Eigeman is back as Des, still playing the same character he played in Metropolitan and Barcelona. You can almost imagine Last Days as a continuation in the telling of the life of Nick and Fred. There are even some cameos of characters from the previous movies for hardcore Stillman fans. The film revolves around the mating aspirations of its two central characters, a rather naïve Alice (Chlöe Sevigny of Kids fame) and her social-circle-expert coworker Charlotte (Kate Beckinsale hardly recognizable from her recent role in Shooting Fish).
Stillman, ever insightful in his observation of personality quirks and how they function in social groups, fashions a world in which life consists of little more than working and self-consciously hanging out in night clubs. (Or working to self-consciously hang out in night clubs?) That old nice guy versus jerk dynamic in the competition for women theme returns, as does Stillman's theme of social inclusion and exclusion.
Of course, as before, there is a faint background of position and class consciousness, but more in aspiration than politics. Even with the subplot of drugs and criminal investigation, The Last Days of Disco is as much about relationships and ambition as Jane Austen ever was, but far more bitingly so.
Some things I notice, now rereading my writing, besides what has been mentioned previously:
- Attempting to play on the pride of the reader - the horror!
- Trying to make readers feel like intellectuals for reading something that isn't even entertainment, but meta-entertainment.