Saturday, July 10, 2010

Some Thoughts on "The Last Days of Disco"

I just watched "The Last Days of Disco" again.

I've always wondered if Whit Stillman's conversation was as full of long, grammatically correct, literary sentences as that of his movie characters. He provided some spontaneous-sounding commentary on the DVD I just watched, mostly reminiscing with Chloë Sevigny and Chris Eigeman about making the movie. I thought he was much wordier there (i.e. more bookish, less sloppy) than the average person, but still not as wordy as his characters. Not that that's problem or anything.

One realistic touch was casting the better-looking actress (Kate Beckinsale) as the bad girl and the plainer one (Ms. Sevigny) as the good girl. I'm guessing that this is rarely if ever a free choice for young women. They would all like to be bad girls, but only the pretty ones can reliably get away with it. When Beckinsale's character finally develops serious feelings for a guy, he abruptly dumps her. I bet that happens quite often. Only a saint can resist hurting the feelings of a woman who had acted like a calculating bitch for ages, but then suddenly turns sincere. Really sincere. How come that dynamic isn't portrayed in movies and novels more often? 

Another question: how can Chris Eigeman seem so sympathetic while playing such cynical, unprincipled smartasses? He's pretty much the best thing in this very good movie.

Finally, why are all three of Stillman's movies so good? Um...., well, there's a lot of subtlety in them, and so few cliches. Each one has some characters who are serious men and occasionally features serious conversations, but you get a very strong feeling from these films that the man who made them does not take himself seriously. That's a very appealing combination. Nothing in the dialog or the plot insults one's intelligence, which is astounding in a Hollywood movie. If anything in any of this guy's films has managed to insult your intelligence, you should seriously consider donating your brain to science after you pass on. Perhaps something new could be learned from it. The relationships portrayed are pretty realistic and yet the movies are funny and amusing. Real life isn't funny. Most mortals' attempts to be funny quickly devolve into cartoonishness. Combining realism with entertainment isn't a small accomplishment.

4 comments:

  1. I think Stillman was more in his element with the male main characters of the previous movies. Maybe that's just a consequence of his authenticity - women are simply less interesting in real life.
    Chloe Sevigny's character always had this eyes-glazed-over, passive vibe to her - I got the impression that this was meant to emphasize her feminity compared to Beckinsale's character. Sevigny was pretty hot too, shame she turned into a BJ queen.

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  2. IHTG, I agree about the male and female characters. And even in Disco the funniest moments usually involved Chris Eigeman or the guy who played Dan, the girls' coworker at the publishing company.

    After watching this movie I looked up Kate Beckinsale in the Wikipedia and it turns out she's 1/8th Burmese. Once you know that, you start noticing little hints of it in her face, but before I knew that I didn't suspect anything of the sort.

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  3. You know, it's certainly a pro-beta movie in the end, or at least pro-high IQ beta.

    Chloe's character gets gonorrhea and herpes from the bigshot alpha lawyer she loses her virginity to.

    She pretty much disgraces herself in a fling with Eigeman's dirtbag pseudo-PUA character (for all her outgoing sluttiness, not even Beckinsale's character sinks this low).

    The movie's generic fratboy guy (Jimmy), while kind of a beta, is ultimately a loser as well.

    The ideal lover that Stillman chooses for her - Josh, a well-educated but mentally ill and not overly ambitious public attorney (IIRC).

    On the other hand, the Departmental Dan character is also a major league beta, but comes out of the movie with nothing. Maybe he gets punished for his bitterness. Josh is generally optimistic throughout the movie.

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  4. When Josh and Des debate The Lady and the Tramp, it's pretty much all about alphas and betas. I think Des was depicted as defensive and uncomfortable in that scene ("yes, but he's changed!"), so a feeling was created that Josh may have won the argument.

    Dan is a beta (by Roissy's definition most guys are betas), but I don't think he's shy enough to be a proper nerd. Just a guy of average level of extroversion who happens to have a low-paid job and who's bitter because of it. Josh was depicted as being somewhat shy ("I WILL take no for an answer", etc.), so in my mind he's nerdier. And he's more of a gent than anybody else in the movie, which must have been important for Stillman. Dan wouldn't have thrown away a job to protect a friend, much less a romantic rival.

    There were lots of conservative themes there. At one point Sevigny's character says that people should marry based on respect and shared aspirations and that love should develop from those in the course of marriage. An anti-lust message is always conservative.

    And the mere act of depicting bitchiness the way it is in the wild was conservative. Kate Beckinsale's character has Affirmed Sexist Stereotypes, and that was pretty refreshing.

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