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Saturday Night Fever
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Length:1h 58mins
Cast:John Badham, John Travolta, Karen Gorney, Barry Miller

The film that launched a young John Travolta into mega-stardom has become such an emblem of the 1970s disco era that it's sometimes easy to forget why the movie became a hit in the first place. In fact, if you can get beyond the polyester suits and high-pitched keening of the Bee Gees, Saturday Night Fever holds up remarkably well as a gritty urban tale of lower-class striving. This is due in large part to Travolta's great, affecting performance as Tony Manero, a young Italian American from the Bay Ridge section of Brooklyn who feels stifled by both his blue-collar roots and his dead-end job. He seeks his release by dancing at the neighborhood disco, and the local fame he achieves fuels his dreams of getting out of Brooklyn and making something of himself. This is still director John Badham's finest work, as he captures the camaraderie between Tony and his thuggish friends and the texture of their Brooklyn hangouts with an authenticity reminiscent of such '70s classics as Mean Streets. And even if you think disco sucks, there is no denying the excitement and energy the famous soundtrack lends to the film, particularly the pulsating dance scenes. Fever isn't a real musical, yet not since the heyday of such "backstage" song-and-dance extravaganzas as 42nd Street has a movie conveyed so powerfully the romance and promise of Manhattan. For Tony, the City shimmers like a distant and magical Oz. In that sense, Saturday Night Fever is true in spirit to the best American musicals. Kryssa Schemmerling

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