Delightfully decadent and almost magical, 54 is an intriguing albeit clunky movie about the infamous Studio 54. A place that existed in its own reality capturing the spirit of the late seventies and hedonism. Pure and unadulterated hedonism mixed with that feeling of being alive. We have the opportunity to see how people partied back then and what drugs were popular. As you start getting older, you realize that basically, the same shit has been happening for thousands of years. People have been drinking, doing drugs, and having all kinds of sexual relationships since the dawn of time.
However, that’s not how this tribal society works. You have to bury all those feelings deep inside of you and become the mindless drone in service of your tribe. As you can already sense, we’re about to get into another rant about the dangers of conformism and I would like to avoid it this time. So, let’s get back to this cool movie. If there’s one thing I remember from this movie it’s shirtless and sexy Ryan Phillippe working as a bartender. Sexuality plays a strong role in 54 and it helped the movie become popular again.
Panned by audiences and critics at the time of its release, the movie was resurrected back in 2015 with the director’s cut. And ever since then its popularity has been growing, especially in the gay community. Now, I’m not gay but I also liked this director’s cut although I really can’t remember much from the original release. To me, the most important thing about this movie was the spirit of that place, Studio 54, and the shit that went on in there. The rest of it was just a bonus. If you want to know more about the real story I recommend Matt Tyrnauer’s documentary Studio 54.
Meet Shane O’Shea, a nineteen-year-old guy working at a gas station and dreaming big dreams. Living in New Jersey, he constantly thinks about the nightlife of New York that’s just one drive away. One night he decides to drive to Studio 54, a hit new discotheque along with a couple of his friends. Naturally good-looking, he manages to get in while his friends are turned away and this is how the rest of his life begins.
At its core, this is a familiar story of a young loser who accidentally catches a break and enters the world of high rollers. I don’t want to give away too much of the story although it’s quite a familiar one. The cast of 54 is simply phenomenal, with Mike Myers stealing the show as Steve Rubell in his first dramatic role. Neve Campbell and Salma Hayek were also great along with Breckin Meyer. His character was quite complex but that wasn’t a problem for Breckin. He was honest and natural, playing it pitch-perfect.
54 handled quite an explosive story and characters without melodrama and with style. The music is great, helping you disappear in the darkness and disco lights of this infamous club. A place where only the rich, famous, and pretty people could party, something that I would usually hate. However, the real story surrounding it is just too damn potent. So, I simply let go of my preconceived notions and witnessed this insanity for what it is. And I really enjoyed it and I hope you will too.
If you’re looking for similar movies, I recommend you check out Boogie Nights that came out just one year earlier. And speaking of cool gay movies, I can’t help but mentioning Behind the Candelabra, also taking place during the seventies. Driven by a powerful performance by Michael Douglas, it’s a true treat.
Director: Mark Christopher
Writer: Mark Christopher
Cast: Ryan Phillippe, Salma Hayek, Breckin Meyer, Mike Myers, Neve Campbell, Sela Ward, Ellen Albertini Dow
Fun Facts: Ryan Phillippe’s character is based on Tieg Thomas, who worked at the legendary Studio 54 from 1977 to 1982.