54 tries hard to replicate life in and around the ultimate disco. The tale is told by narrator Shane [Ryan Phillippe], a blonde young Adonis from across the river in Jersey. Shane, who's a sheltered dreamer, manages to get a job as a busboy at the club. The allure, the glamour and the attitude there are his vision of Heaven, although from our vantage point, it often look like Hell.
There is not much a story. The film paints portraits of some of the customers and employees instead. Mike Myers, playing Steve Rubell, gives a powerful, Oscar caliber performance. His interpretation of this mad Emperor of Dance manages to make Rubell as much of a victim of his generation's excess as a perpetrator.
While the film is full of drugs, sex [of all kinds] and rock and roll, it is strangely timid. By pulling their punches, the film's makers never grab the audience. It's as though they were still embarrassed by the excesses of the times. Compared to 1997's boisterous Boogie Nights, it's tame stuff.
54 encounters a problem that has plagued many movies. Shane and his new friends who work at the club may be beautiful, but they are so relentlessly self-centered that, in the end, we don't much care where they wind up. It takes a master of the medium to make us feel for characters who take and never give. Only Rubell elicits any sympathy, but the picture does not center on him, as perhaps it should have.
The movie does manages to show the high energy of Studio 54. The music, dancing and lighting are fairly faithfully reproduced. The crowds are fun to look at. Rubell's descent into drug-induced madness is similar to the articles I have read about him.
54 is in the pop culture class and entertains us a sleek yet trashy way. If you want to see the late 70s Manhattan scene portrayed with style and substance, check out 1997's The Last Days of Disco.
You seem like a cool person-come into Studio 54! Read more