Brooklyn, late seventies. Great time to be a teenager. Just ask Tony Manero. He’s got a comfy job working in a paint store. He lives with his parents, but he doesn’t have much responsibilities besides taking in their criticisms. He’s from an Italian family that strongly believes in religion and tradition, and Tony’s behavior doesn’t really cut it. His mom’s biggest pride is his brother Frank, who’s a priest. So Tony works all week, hanging out a bit with his buddies, but that’s all an opening act for the almighty Saturday night. Tony and the guys then put on their brand new polyester shirts and gold chains, spend hours working on their hair and go to down to the 2001 Odyssey to party the night away. They dance the disco, they booze up, and if they get lucky, they score in the backseat of their car.
Tony Manero’s always the coolest cat in the house. When he hits the dance floor, he’s really on fire. And who better to play him than Mr. Cool himself, John Travolta, in one of his best roles ever. Of course, he was much thinner and younger back then, but he was already as charismatic and natural an actor as he is today. And man, what a great dancer he is! You gotta see him getting his groove to The Bee Gees‘s “You Should Be Dancing”!
Yet the film’s about more than disco. It’s actually a rather thankless description of teenage life, circa NYC in 77. Manero and his buddies often get into trouble with other gangs like the Barracudas. There’s also a guy who knocks up his girlfriend and doesn’t know what to do, and even Tony starts questioning his lifestyle. But the dancing is still central to the story. Tony takes part in the 2001’s annual dance contest. He first teams up with some bitch whom he soon dumps for Stephanie, a classy Manhattan girl he meets. She’s quite a bitch herself, and she doesn’t seem to know what she wants, but there’s no doubt that she and Manero form a great dancing couple.
The film was directed by John Badham, who’s got an interesting style even though he’s not, like, Scorsese. His film is truly dynamite. It’s as cool as it gets, but it’s also smart and well crafted, and the soundtrack is one of the best ever. Definitively a must-see.