There’s a lot to be said about Saturday Night Fever. That it was based on a fabrication of New York’s disco culture. That it’s dated. That it lacks nice, wholesome characters. But despite all that, I believe the film still has something to say. That appearances can be deceiving, and that a superficial judgment does not do justice to a film like this.

Dancing in the Discotheque

If you had to describe the film, it’s “boys’ troubles in the discotheque.” In the mid ’70s, a new dance culture was emerging. Disco music became the rage, and nightclubs began to cater to young people with dance floors. Saturday Night Fever drew inspiration from an article about this new youth culture in New York. In hindsight, it turned out to be all made up, so this is a bit of a chicken and egg story: did this film contribute to the success of the disco culture?

The protagonist in this story is Tony, played by John Travolta. Tony works during the week at a paint and DIY store, one of the least exciting jobs ever. But every Friday night, he can spend his money on going out. And dancing. His friends don’t have particularly thrilling lives either and no one has a promising future on the horizon. All the attention is focused on the short term. Tony feels that there might be more to the world, especially when he meets a young woman with a different education from a different background.

Living for the Weekend

On the weekends, Tony feels like a big shot. He hits the dance floor and becomes the center of attention. He’s looking for a good partner for the dance competition to be held at his disco. Tony’s drive to excel in something is also rooted in the fact that his parents consider him a bit of a black sheep. It’s his older brother, about to become a priest, who’s their golden boy. So, the film is also about your place in the family and in your circle of friends. While Tony might be the youngest with the least say at home, in his group of friends, he’s the king.

Perhaps the most relatable aspect of the film is the feeling that you sometimes live from weekend to weekend. What happens during your workweek (when you’re young) doesn’t feel as important as what unfolds in your life over the weekend. This is tied to the short-term thinking typical of that age.

The music in the film is largely by the Bee Gees, and somehow, it still sounds very good. For the music and the dance routines alone, it’s worth watching. But also, pay attention to the somewhat darker themes that surface. I believe it’s still a beautiful film with an engaging story.

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