The Last Days of Disco

on May 29, 1998 by Wade Major
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   Chat-meister Whit Stillman's concluding chapter in his trilogy of yuppie gab-fests, "The Last Days of Disco," follows roughly the same pattern as its predecessors, "Metropolitan" and "Barcelona," focusing on yet another gaggle of interminably shallow, Ivy League pseudo-intellectuals as they grapple with love, life, meaning and the passing of an era during the early 1980s.
   At the center of the mostly male cast are the film's two female protagonists, Alice and Charlotte (Chloe Sevigny and Kate Beckinsale), aspiring New York book editors by day, devoted clubgoers by night. The girls' friendship, however, is a fragile one marked by radically divergent sensibilities that seem to define the story's primary concern, namely the virtues of group social activity as opposed to "ferocious pairing off." Alice is sincere but insecure while Charlotte is blissfully conceited and self absorbed.
   The supporting males fall more in line with the stiff, dysfunctional prep-school archetypes that audiences have come to expect from Stillman: ad man Jimmy Steinway (Mackenzie Astin), corporate lawyer Tom (Robert Sean Leonard), club manager Des (Chris Eigeman) and assistant D.A. Josh (Matt Keeslar).
   When they're not shaking their booties on the dance floor, the trendy friends can be found engaging in idle chatter about everything from the psycho-social ramifications of "Lady and the Tramp" to post-modern reinterpretations of Shakespearean tragedies, occasionally taking time out to vent the romantic and professional insecurities that have become a hallmark of Stillman characters.
   With the exception of Sevigny and the luminous Beckinsale, both of whom are outstanding in their respective roles, "The Last Days of Disco" offers little beyond the usual Stillman prattle<197>precisely the film that both admirers and detractors are probably expecting. As an added bonus for fans, characters from both "Metropolitan" and "Barcelona" appear in cameos.
   Technically, "The Last Days of Disco" is serviceable fare, although costuming, hair and art direction could as easily pass for contemporary times as the early 1980s. Club scenes are also somewhat less than convincing from an auditory standpoint as patrons are consistently able to converse without having to shout over the music.    Starring Chloe Sevigny, Kate Beckinsale, Chris Eigeman, Mackenzie Astin, Matt Keeslar and Robert Sean Leonard. Directed, written and produced by Whit Stillman. A Gramercy release. Drama. Rated R for some elements involving sexuality and drugs. Running time: 112 min.
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