Sometimes, when the days are dark and the world is falling apart, you just want to forget it all for a night and dance. Cue Saturday Night Fever (Disc/Download). This picture returned to my radar after watching a fantastic documentary about the Bee Gees, whose soundtrack was perhaps more influential and long-lasting than the film itself. However, watching it now, I’m once again blown away by how complex and interesting this “little disco movie” really is.
As we get our first glimpse of John Travolta walking down his Brooklyn street carrying a can of paint, the viewer gets an immediate sense of this character before he even says a word. Tony Manero is confident, slick, knows how to move to the beat of a song, yet seems to be seeking the approval of every person around him. We expect him to be the stereotypical male bimbo, but it’s a credit to the writers and Travolta that Tony is so nuanced. He’s horribly misogynist, yet shows genuine remorse when called out on it. He throws out racial slurs, yet gets mad when the Hispanic couple in his dance competition doesn’t get a fair shot. He’s the king of Brooklyn, but knows he’s wasting his life as a big fish in a small pond. It’s interesting to watch this in 2021 because here is a white male who has been brought up in a culture which inherently disrespects minorities and women, but gives hints he might have the courage and willingness to change. That’s just not something we see from a lot of men nowadays, on screen or in person. Do we need disco to make a comeback? Because on that dance floor, with the lights spinning all around, everyone is equal. Either you can dance or you can’t, and one’s value is completely based in how hard they’ve worked to perfect the steps. Rich, poor, black, white, brown, male, female, gay, straight—none of it matters. Music is everything.
To celebrate the outer borough Tony and his lady friend Stephanie so desperately want to escape, I’ll be drinking this variation on the Manhattan. It’s looks similar, but has more bitter notes (it’s probably just sick of crossing that bridge every day). While watching Saturday Night Fever, I recommend drinking a classic Brooklyn cocktail.
1 ½ oz Rye Whiskey
½ oz Dry Vermouth
¼ oz Orange Bitters
¼ oz Maraschino Liqueur
Luxardo Maraschino cherry for garnish
Combine whiskey, vermouth, bitters, and maraschino liqueur in a shaker with ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into a chilled martini glass. Drop in a Luxardo cherry.
It’s surprising to me that this movie is sometimes labeled a romance on streaming platforms. Although it concludes with Tony and Stephanie sharing a soulful moment set to “How Deep is Your Love”, and it has some sexy dance scenes, that’s as much of a love story as we’re given. If anything, the romance is between Tony and disco. So that’s why, every time I’m combing through a stack of vinyl and see that familiar cover of John Travolta in his white suit (because every vinyl stack has one), I find myself smiling. In the end, Tony and disco had their happily ever after; it endures on my turntable. Cheers!