Today I watched Saturday Night Fever, directed by John Badham in 1977. I wasn't a fan of the main character, so I didn't care what happened to him. It was weird, because I remember everyone who I ever spoke to about it acting like it was this great, happy comedy or something. I wish I had known that it was such a dark movie, because I might have liked it more. But only maybe. It seems like some kind of failure on someone's part that people only remember this as a happy, dancey movie, and not the dark parts of it (which are plentiful).
The movie is about Tony, a guy who lives with his parents and works in a paint shop. He only feels important and powerful when he goes out dancing, which he is great at. People ooh and aah over him, girls want him, and everything just works for him. He meets Stephanie, one of the only girls who can stand up to him and calls him for what he is - a guy going nowhere, acting like a child. Of course, women can't really have any backbone for too long in this movie, and Tony tries to express his love for her by raping her. But later, she senses that Tony can really change! Whatever.
I can appreciate a lot of things about this movie. It is filmed well. The soundtrack is awesome. I can sort of see what Tony is going through - lots of people have that sort of crisis, where they feel so powerless in their lives that they need to find a hobby to give them control. I know a lot of people who probably could relate to his character, who is trying desperately to hide how lost he really is. I just couldn't. Maybe it's because I'm not a man, or just because I expected some sort of nice, happy movie instead of something darker, but Tony's character just was so awful to me. I really just disliked him and had no sympathy for him, honestly. But my own feelings aside, I can see why people like this movie. It must remind them of the struggles that they went through, because it's a common struggle. I also really respect and love that Ebert put this movie in his book because it was Gene Siskel's favorite - it's really touching and sweet, and I feel bad for not liking the movie.
I think for me, I just had a hard time seeing anything except the negative side of Tony. I know, I know. I just couldn't relate to him. When I feel inadequate, I just wallow or get emotional. I don't think I've ever done anything to make myself feel big and powerful or important. I know the movie is not about my personal and special life, but it's just hard for me to like a character who does questionable things when I personally cannot connect with them at all to even try to understand.
I just didn't feel like watching this movie tonight. This is not really a critical post - I just was not in the mood for a darker movie. There are lots of heavy subjects in here, like suicide and gang rape, and I just would have preferred to not have gone there tonight. There are movies with these things in them that I still like, but it makes a big difference when you can go into them in the right head space, you know?
I was bothered that so many people seem to remember this as a fun or happy dance movie. I felt like we must have seen totally different films. For me, the happy ending did not make up for the rape and death and other such things. Those stayed with me, and I was just annoyed at the ending. It seemed cheap - like it should have just gone all the way and stayed sort of depressing, I guess. "But he's going to change!" is a pretty sorry way to excuse some dope who just let a girl get raped after trying to rape another one. I don't know. Ebert compares this movie to Who's That Knocking at my Door? which is similar, I agree. But I like that movie, and not this one. What is the difference? Probably that I was better prepared for Who's That Knocking, or I was in a better mind set to see something like that. Today I wasn't, and that's that, really.
As much as I personally may not have liked this movie, I'm glad Ebert put it into his book. It's so nice that he did that in honor of his close friend, and I really appreciate that. He thinks that Gene must have liked it because he saw it at a certain time in his life when he could relate to it. I have movies like that, for sure, like Ghost World, which I watched over and over with my best friend in high school. We both felt like the characters, and even though I don't (always) feel that way now, I like to go back to it, because it brings me back so quickly to another time in my life. Not just that I remember watching it with my friend - but I remember feeling that way, and acting that way, and it just transports me back to a different time, a different mindset, and all the good and bad things that came with it.
I don't know, I understand Saturday Night Fever, it just isn't for me.
Ebert's Great Movie Essay on Saturday Night Fever
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