54 (1998) 

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Ryan Phillippe
Mike Myers
Salma Hayek
Breckin Meyer
Neve Campbell
Sela Ward
Heather Matarazzo
Sherry Stringfield
Mark Ruffalo
Michael York

Mark Christopher




Time: 89 mins.
Rating: R
Genre: Romance/Drama

I have to admit the main reason I went to see this film was to beat the heat. I figured it would be amusing enough for a few hours and I was really looking forward to the central air-conditioning. I guess you get what you pay for because though 54 has some interesting moments, you never really feel like part of the action. The camera winds you across the dance floor, but doesn't stay long enough to infect you with the pulse and sweat of the music. It's all glitz and glamour without any substance, which doesn't give the characters much to do.

Apparently, this film went through drastic changes on the way to the theater. Test-screening audiences (groups no good filmmaker should listen to) didn't like the fact that all the characters did was drink, carouse, steal, have sex with random people and do drugs without any recourse. Hello...what movie did they think they were seeing...Bambi? This is supposed to be a film about what life was like working and being part of a time and place in history where anything and everything goes. I wanted to see the underbelly, how a place like 54 would make people do anything to be a part of it. This isn't the Girl Scouts people.

Well, this version of the film kind of is. We follow the story of Shane (Ryan Phillippe), a young stud from Jersey, who yearns to get into 54 so he can meet the woman of his dreams Julia (Neve Campbell), a big soap opera actress. He doesn't want to get into 54 because he wants to be part of this amazing experience. He just wants to meet a soap queen and that's where she happens to hang out. Wrong motivation right from the start. Some people never got in, but he's picked his first time out and eventually wrangles a job from the owner himself Steve Rubell (Mike Myers). Who knew life could be so easy? Shane, of course, becomes wrapped up in the drugs and chicks lifestyle, but except for a run-in with the clap, he suffers no consequences for his actions. So what that his father won't celebrate Christmas with him. What 20-year-old wants that anyway?

"Welcome to my party, handsome."

The other people we meet also work in the club and they are just as one-note as Shane. Anita (Salma Hayek) is a coat check girl who wants to be a disco queen. Her husband Greg (Breckin Meyer) just wants to be a bartender so he can make more money for her studio. And Julia is just a poor actress who wants to get into features. At least they all have reasons for being at the club. It's all about money and power and they desperately want as much as they can get their hands on. Everyone except Shane. All he ever wanted was the girl. How quaint. Unfortunately, we never see anyone actually sell their soul or their body to get what they want. All of these characters are too decent for that. Huh? This story is just all bark and no bite. There's no catharsis because no one really does anything to compromise themselves or their values. Boring, boring, boring. I grew up Catholic and I broke more commandments before I was 10 than these people do throughout this whole film.

The only character who was the least bit interesting was Rubell. Myers was wonderful as this dweeb turned party god who wields his power to grant entrance to the hippest place on earth with malicious glee. He was getting back at everyone who made fun of him and for those who still did he was too drugged out to notice. It is a complex performance undercut by the lack of any good material. If you're interested in the era and want to get some idea what Rubell was trying to accomplish, this may enlighten you a bit. But don't expect much. The set and costume design was good but nothing that'll take your breath away. BOOGIE NIGHTS did a better job in those departments. If you're a fan of the music, 54 has a phenomenal soundtrack that will get your toes tapping...even if your hearts not in it.

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