"Saturday Night Fever" (1977)
1977's "Saturday Night Fever" is a movie that strongly resonates with a particular generation - mine. Five minutes of the movie brings it all back -- the disco era, the incredible Bee Gees music, and the charm, charisma and dance moves that was young John Travolta. If you were around then, you'll remember the cultural explosion this film caused. It simply defined the era, the way "Flashdance," an inferior film, did in a smaller way with the off one shoulder sweatshirt and music.
It's the era of platform shoes, polyester shirts, and big blow-dried hair, and in the midst of it is a young Brooklyn man (Travolta) who has a gifted natural ability for dance is surrounded by friends heading nowhere and Italian-American parents who are afraid that he's just like his crowd. He finally realizes, thanks to his relationship with his pretty, uptown girl dance partner Stephanie (Karen Lynn Gorney), partly because of a tragedy, and partly because of his talent that he needs to stretch himself and move beyond his friends and neighborhood. As Stephanie says to him, "You live with your parents, you hang with your buddies and on Saturday nights you burn it all off at 2001 Odyssey. You're a cliché. You're nowhere, going' no place." As Tony Manero, John Travolta is a sexy number with his swiveling hips and white suit, and he has a neighborhood girl (Donna Pescow) in love with him, as well as one of his friends, Bobby (Barry Miller) who's gay and doesn't know it, but always shows off for Tony and cries when Tony doesn't call him.
I love what Roger Ebert says about the effect of this film, which was his review partner Gene Siskel's favorite: "We all have a powerful memory of the person we were at that moment when we formed a vision for our lives. Tony Manero stands poised precisely at that moment. He makes mistakes, he fumbles, he says the wrong things, but when he does what he loves he feels a special grace." Directed with both realism and romance by John Badham, "Saturday Night Fever," especially for those of us who were young during the disco era, holds a very special place.