USA 1998

Reviewed by Liese Spencer


Our synopses give away the plot in full, including surprise twists.

New York, 1979. Nineteen-year-old Shane O'Shea lives with his father and younger sisters in New Jersey. One night he cajoles his friends to go to Manhattan's most exclusive disco, Studio 54. Only Shane is let in by owner Steve Rubell. Shane returns and is given a job. He moves in with fellow busboy Greg and his wife Anita, an aspiring singer-songwriter who works in the cloakroom.

Sexually promiscuous, Shane takes drugs and meets celebrity guests such as soap star Julie Black and geriatric regular Disco Dottie. Every night money is cleared from the tills to cheat the IRS. Greg is propositioned by Rubell, but refuses. Shane begins an affair with socialite Billie Auster. Greg begins to deal drugs. Shane contracts a sexually transmitted disease. After arguing with Greg on Christmas Eve, Shane goes home but is turned away by his father.

Steve spends a romantic afternoon with Julie Black. On New Year's Eve, Shane sees Julie with another man who suggests a threesome. Dottie dies on the dancefloor during Anita's singing debut. Shane argues with Rubell and storms out. The IRS raid Studio 54 and arrest Rubell. Eighteen months later Rubell is released from prison and Shane, Anita and Greg meet again at a party at Studio 54.


Bowdlerised by parent company Disney, Miramax's 54 is a disappointingly conventional account of the 70s most notorious nightclub. Retracing the steps of Saturday Night Fever with heavy feet, writer-director Mark Christopher's urban picaresque opens with teenager Shane O'Shea fleeing his New Jersey home in search of excitement in Manhattan's most exclusive nightclub. With a grinding predictability, the next 90 minutes show us Studio's glittering bacchanalia turning into a strobe-lit nightmare of corruption and ugliness. As he progresses from gauche innocent to bare-chested hustler, Shane befriends fellow busboy Greg and his wife Anita, blue-collar grafters who understand that in the United States, "there is no such thing as royalty, only celebrity", and who ply their aspirations in the mosh-pit of social mobility that is Studio 54.

The script's decision to focus on these dim-witted dreamers is a mistake. Pretty enough, Ryan Phillippe as Shane lacks Travolta's charisma and dancing skills, while Breckin Meyer and Salma Hayek's truncated roles as Greg and Anita leave them little room to prove their abilities. So brutal is the editing that their ensemble relationship is reduced to a series of tenuous allegiances and confrontations which dissolve between scenes with little meaning or resonance.

Such flimsy characters are matched by the film's half-hearted portrayal of pre-Aids hedonism. Bianca Jagger's ride into Studio 54 on a white horse was a moment of iconic decadence. It seems representative of the film's fearful approach that what we get instead is a white goat, a poor Andy Warhol impersonator and a slightly lascivious cameo by Michael York.

More perniciously, the club's legendary pansexuality has been replaced by the acceptable face of debauchery. In 54 homosexuality can be heard about but not seen (a prudishness that stems, one suspects, from the studio rather than from Christopher, whose previous work includes a couple of gay shorts). Shane, Greg and Anita's love triangle is entirely proper (a much vaunted screen kiss between Shane and Greg was cut) while Greg shows an uncharacteristic squeamishness by refusing to have a career-enhancing exchange of bodily fluids with club-owner Steve Rubell.

Sporting a prosthetic nose and bald patch, Mike Myers' Rubell is the best thing about the movie. Whether writhing ecstatically on a bed covered in dollar bills or addressing the crowds from the DJ's box like some disco dictator, Myers' tragi-comic performance captures Rubell's sleazy charm to perfection. It helps of course that Myers has all the best lines. In one scene he tells the doorman not to let, "whores and yids in like last night," only for the bouncer to protest, "But those were your cousins, Steve." Later, as the IRS raid his club, Rubell can't help sneering, "even from here their suits look cheap."

A moral bankrupt from the sticks who buried his own sense of self-loathing in snobbery and substituted intimacy for a family of dancing drug-users, Rubell's impresario is the one character of any substance, the one we want to watch. Instead, we follow his brainless employees towards a trite ending about a dead granny who partied until the end.

Released at the fag-end of the recent 70s retrospective, Christopher's film already feels past its sell-by date, its banal characters and uninspired script inviting unfavourable comparisons with Boogie Nights and The Last Days of Disco. Studio's decor famously included the Man in the Moon, spooning cocaine into his nose. Despite a great soundtrack, watching 54 is more like swallowing a bottle of quaaludes: let's hope it's the last stop on the current nostalgia trip.


Richard N. Gladstein
Dolly Hall
Ira Deutchman
Mark Christopher
Director of Photography
Alexander Gruszynski
Lee Percy
Production Designer
Kevin Thompson
Marco Beltrami
©Miramax Film Corp
Production Companies
Miramax presents
a Redeemable Features/Dollface/ FilmColony production
Executive Producers
Bob Weinstein
Harvey Weinstein
Bobby Cohen
Don Carmody
Associate Producer
Jonathan King
FilmColony Production Executive
Lila Yacoub
New York Production Supervisor
Bill Milling
New York 2nd Unit Supervisor
Mark Brown
Production Co-ordinators
Deborah Zwicker
New York:
Alexis Arnold
Lesley Myers
Production Managers
Mathew Hart
New York:
David Steck
Location Managers
Jim Powers
New York:
Diana Strauss
Post-production Supervisor
Martha Griffin
Assistant Directors
Michael Zenon
Rocco Gismondi
Tim Singh
New York:
Jude Gorjanc
Cindy Craig
Linda Perkins
Script Supervisor
Susanna David
Billy Hopkins
Suzanne Smith
Kerry Barden
Toronto Director:
Diane Kerbel
New York 2nd Unit Director of Photography
Peter Reniers
Camera Operators
Andy Chmura
Kit Whitmore
New York:
Peter Reniers
Steven Drelich
Steadicam Operators
Peter Rosenfeld
Andris Matiss
Sean Jansen
New York:
Steve Constantino
Club Lighting Designers
Alexander Gruszynski
Martin Kelley
Digital Effects
Bipack, Inc
Special Effects
Michael Kavanagh
Rob Sanderson
Additional Editing
Greg Featherman
Michael Levine
Additional Editor
Peter Devaney Flanagan
Art Directors
Tamara Deverell
New York:
Loren Weeks
Set Decorator
Karin Wiesel
Peter Nicolakakos
Key Scenic Artist
John Bannister
Scenic Artist
Jak Oliver
Costume Designer
Ellen Lutter
Additional Costumes
Libbie Lane
Costume Supervisors
Kathleen Meade
Quita Alfred
New York On-set:
Roseann Milano
Wardrobe Supervisor
New York On-set:
Kevin Faherty
Key Artist:
Patricia Green
New York Artist:
Linda Grimes
Veronica Green
Mr Myers' Prosthetics
Matthew Mungle
Make-up Artist:
John Jackson
Judi Cooper-Sealy
New York:
Verne Caruso
Main/End Title Sequence Design
Dan Perri
Main Title Effects
OCS/Freeze Frame/Pixel Magic
Howard Anderson Company
Guitar Solos
Buck Sanders
Kevin Manthei
Music Supervisors
Susan Jacobs
Coati Mundi Hernandez
Music Co-ordinator
Erin Gutterman
Music Editors
Shari Schwartz Johanson
John Finklea
Sienna Finklea
Chris McGeary
Nancy Novack
"Keep on Dancin'" by Eric Matthews, Gary Turnier, performed by Gary's Gang; "Dance, Dance, Dance (Yowsah, Yowsah, Yowsah)" by Bernard Edwards, Nile Rodgers, Kenny Lehman, performed by Chic; "Move On Up" by Curtis Mayfield, performed by Destination; "The Boss" by Nickolas Ashford, Valerie Simpson, performed by Diana Ross; "Vertigo/Relight My Fire" by/performed by Dan Hartman; "You Make Me Feel Alright (Mighty Real)" by James Wirrick, Sylvester James, performed by Sylvester; "Contact" by Edwin Starr, Robert Dickerson,Arthur Eugene Pullman II, performed by Edwin Starr; "Knock on Wood" by Eddie Floyd, Steve Cropper, performed by Mary Griffin; "Young Hearts Run Free" by David Crawford, performed by Candi Staton; "Que sera mi vida" by Daniel Vangarde, Jean Kluger, Alex Francfort, performed by The Gibson Brothers; "Wishing on a Star" by Billie Calvin, performed by Rose Royce; "Haven't Stopped Dancing Yet" by Gloria R. Jones, performed by Gonzalez; "Lovin' Is Really My Game" by Belita Woods, Trenita Womack, performed by Brainstorm; "Love Machine (Part I)" by Warren Moore, William Griffin, performed by The Miracles; "Let's Start the Dance" by Hamilton Bohannon, performed by Bohannon; "I Got My Mind Made up (You Can Get It Girl)" by Scott Miller, Kim Miller, Raymond Earl, performed by Instant Funk; "Native New Yorker" by Sandy Linzer, Denny Randell, performed by Odyssey; "If You Could Read My Mind" by Gordon Lightfoot, performed by Stars on 54 featuring Ultra Naté, Amber and Jocelyn Enriquez; "Heaven Must Have Sent You" by Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier, Edward Holland Jr., performed by Bonnie Pointer; "Disco Nights (Rock, Freak)" by Emanuel LeBlanc, Herb Lane, Keith R. Crier, Paul Service, performed by Go; "Found a Cure" by Nickolas Ashford, Valerie Simpson, performed by Ashford & Simpson; "Come to Me" by Tony Green, performed by France Joli; "Take Your Time (Do It Right)" by Harold Clayton, Sigidi, performed by S.O.S. Band; "Spank" by Ronald Smith, performed by Jimmy 'Bo' Horne; "I Need a Man" by P. Papadiamondis, P. Slade, performed by Grace Jones; "Cherchez la femme/Se si bon" by August Darnell, Stony Browder, performed by Dr. Buzzard's Original Savannah Band; "You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet" by Randy Bachman, performed by Bachman-Turner Overdrive; "Hang On in There Baby" by/performed by Johnny Bristol; "Don't Leave Me This Way" by Kenneth Gamble, Cary Gilbert, Leon Huff, performed by Thelma Houston; "Galaxy" by Thomas Allen, Harold R. Brown, Morris Dickerson, Lonnie Jordan, Charles Miller, Lee Oskar, Howard Scott, Jerry Goldstein, performed by War; "Lamento Borincano" by Rafael Hernandez Marin, performed by Salma Hayek; "Heart of Glass" by Deborah Harry, Chris Stein, performed by Blondie; "Fly Robin Fly" by Sylvester LeVay, Stephan Prager, performed by Silver Convention; "The Break" by Denis LePage, performed by Kat Mandu; "The Night I Fly" by Thelma Houston, Bunny Byll, performed by Nayobe Gomez; "Pillow Talk" by Sylvia Robinson, Michael Burton, performed by Sylvia; "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" by Ralph Blane, Hugh Martin, performed by Thelma Houston, Jacky Terrasson; "Jingle Bells" performed by Marco Ribaldi; "Minuet in G Major" by Johann Sebastian Bach, performed by Janos Sebastyen Orchestra
Lori Eastside
Sound Design
Steve Boeddeker
Production Sound Mixers
David Lee
New York:
Brian Miksis
Re-recording Mixers
Lora Hirschberg
Gary A. Rizzo
Michael Semanick
Tom Myers
Tony Sereno
Ronald G. Roumas
Mix Technicians
Kent Sparling
Jurgen Scharpf
Co-supervising Sound Editors
Tom Bellfort
Robert Shoup
Dialogue Editors
Ewa Sztompke Oatfield
Rich Quinn
Lindakay Brown
Claire Sanfilippo
Sound Effects Editors
Kyrsten Mate Comoglio
E. Larry Oatfield
David C. Hughes
Al Nelson
Sue Fox
Marilyn McCoppen
Dennie Thorpe
Jana Vance
Pepe Merel
Tony Eckert
Kevin Sellers
Karen Wilson
Creative Consultant
Matthew Landon
Studio 54 Consultant
Steven Gaines
Stunt Co-ordinator
Shane Cardwell
Animal Handler
Rick Parker
Ryan Phillippe
Shane O'Shea
Salma Hayek
Sela Ward
Billie Auster
Breckin Meyer
Greg Randazzo
Sherry Stringfield
Neve Campbell
Julie Black
Mike Myers
Steve Rubell
Heather Matarazzo
Grace O'Shea
Ellen Albertini Dow
Disco Dottie
Erika Alexander
Skipp Sudduth
Harlan O'Shea
Domenick Lombardozzi
Mark Ruffalo
Jason Andrews
Jay Goede
Lorri Bagley
Lauren Hutton
Liz Vangelder
Michael York
Daniel Lapaine
Mark the doorman
Ron Jeremy
Elio Fiorucci
Thelma Houston
Cameron Mathison
Noam Jenkins
Patrick Taylor
Aemilia Robinson
Kelly O'Shea
Mark Griffin
disco star
Don Carrier
Robert Bauer
Roland Sachs
Bruno Miguel
Laura Catalano
Kohl Sudduth
James Binkley
Rubell's bodyguard
Arthur Nascarella
John Himes
IRS agents
Louis Negin
Truman Capote
Lena Vajakas
Barbara Radecki
TV host
Sean Sullivan
Andy Warhol
Vieslav Krystyan
Niki Holt
Alpine Inn waitress
David Blacker
Bruce MacVittie
music producer
Emmanuel Mark
talent manager
Kabriel Lilly
little girl
Morgan Freeman
angelic boy

Lina Felice
Nicaraguan woman
Drake Alonso Thornes
man on horseback
Justin Tensum
blond busboy
Jason Fruitman
busboy 1
Andy Grote
54 waiter
Jordan Paige
young Shane
Georgina Kess
Shane's mom
Mario Bosco
Coati Mundi
Victor Sutherland
Janie Longley
Michael Henderson
Chris Ingram
kissing trio
Sheryl Crow
Georgina Grenville
Cindy Crawford
Sophie Rousseau
Victor Brown
Heidi Blum
Donald Trump
Cecilia Thomson Ling
Frederique Van Der Wal
Veronica Webb
Michael Van Der Wal
VIP patrons
Art Garfunkel
Peter Bogdanovich
Beverly Johnson
Bruce Jay Friedman
Andrea Bocaletti
Lorna Luft
Valerie Perrine
Elaine's patrons
Ultra Naté
Jocelyn Enriquez
Stars on 54
Buena Vista International (UK)
8,387 feet
93 minutes 12 seconds
In Colour
Last Updated: 20 Dec 2011