It is easy to forget that John Travolta can sing and dance. Considering the films he chose for the latter years of his career, he seems to have left that side of his talents behind him but Saturday Night Fever showcases the best of his dancing. To say iconic would be an under-statement and although aspects are dated, you can’t help but be impressed with what he does here.
As The Bee Gees begin singing and Travolta struts his way down the street, you’d be forgiven for thinking this was a straight dance story. The dancing plays a part but is such a small aspect of the story. It isn’t given short-shrift through and when the 70 disco starts playing, we get some fairly impressive dance sequences, from the iconic white suit, black collar dance that has been often imitated but rarely bettered. Its these moments where Saturday Night Fever is at its lightest.
That is because this is a drama, not a “dance movie.” This is a showcase of dancing talent but also acting talent and Travolta shows that he can handle that aspect ably too. The story isn’t necessarily anything too ground-breaking, we have seen the tale of a man stuck in his social rut, on the cusp of using his talent to “break-out” before, but there is something very raw and real here. From the awkward, intense dinner-party scenes, the return of his brother or the gang-style confrontations which lead to some fairly nasty violence, it is clear that the dancing is a distraction from a life going no-where for Travolta’s Tony.
This leads to one of the issues for Saturday Night Fever, as the story doesn’t really lead to anything. Its a film spotlighting a couple of weeks in the life of these characters and as great as the dancing is, you can find yourself waiting for the movie to kick-up a gear. There are moments which surprise and the story has key points, but it lacks the satisfactory conclusion.
What we do get is a some fairly shocking moments interspersed within the story. There are sexual abuse scenes which don’t get the reaction you want from the characters witnessing it, heavy-handed dating tactics from Tony himself and some dated attitudes to women altogether. You could argue it is a movie showing the views and attitudes at the time but they are uncomfortably dated nonetheless.
And then there is that dancing. Its impressive but again, dated. You can’t imagine that in the 70s there were clubs which parted ways for the most impressive dancers to take the dance floor for five minutes and show-off their moves. It is great to see the origin of some of the most imitated moments in film but that doesn’t mean that at times it isn’t slightly laughable. The soundtrack still works regardless though.
Overall, Saturday Night Fever is an iconic movie for the dancing alone. It is easy to think that that is all there is but this a drama with some pretty uncomfortable moments and raw scenes. Some of the attitudes are out-dated and Tony’s behaviour is shocking considering views today but to see where the famous dance movies come from, even if they are slightly dated, its still worth the watch.
Rating – 3.5
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