54 (film)

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54
54 poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byMark Christopher
Written byMark Christopher
Produced byIra Deutchman
Richard N. Gladstein
Dolly Hall
Starring
Narrated byRyan Philippe
CinematographyAlexander Gruszynski
Edited byLee Percy
Music byMarco Beltrami
Distributed byMiramax Films
Release date
  • August 28, 1998 (1998-08-28)
Running time
93 minutes
105 minutes (Director's cut)
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Budget$13 million
Box office$16.8 million[1]

54 is a 1998 American drama film about Studio 54, a world-famous nightclub in New York City, written and directed by Mark Christopher. It stars Ryan Phillippe, Salma Hayek, Neve Campbell, and Mike Myers as Steve Rubell, the club's co-founder. Prior to its release in 1998, the film was extensively reshot and recut, and then released to poor critical reaction, but somewhat respectable box office. In 2008, a bootleg version of the director's cut was screened at Outfest, leading to interest for its release. In 2015, Christopher and Miramax premiered a new edit of the film at the Berlin International Film Festival, with 45 minutes of original material restored and 30 minutes of studio re-shoots removed.[2]

Plot[edit]

In the summer of 1979, 19-year-old Irish-American gas jockey Shane O'Shea lives in Jersey City, New Jersey with his widowed, conservative father Harlan and two younger sisters Grace and Kelly, both named after Grace Kelly. Shane longs for a more glamorous life across the river in New York, so one night he talks his two friends into going to Studio 54; however, gay club owner Steve Rubell only picks Shane to come inside. Once inside, Shane is exposed to the flashy, hedonistic world of 54, with unbridled alcohol, drugs, and open sex. Against his father’s wishes, Shane returns to 54 the next night and is hired by Steve as a busboy, befriending fellow busboy Greg Randazzo and his wife Anita, a coat-check girl and aspiring singer. Shane eventually moves out of his family's house in Jersey City after fighting with his father over his new job, and moves in with Greg and Anita in New York, who both become a new surrogate family to him.

Both Shane and Greg want to become bartenders, since they get paid more money and have more "celebrity" status. After only a week working at 54, Shane gets promoted to bartender thanks partly to 54 regular Billie Auster, an older customer who has a one-night stand with Shane while high on cocaine and marijuana. Shane's promotion slightly splinters his friendship with Greg as Greg feels that he didn't get the job because he wouldn't let Steve perform oral sex on him in exchange for it (quid pro quo). Shane, now nicknamed “Shane 54” by his fellow bartenders, quickly becomes a highly-paid quasi-celebrity at 54 and gets sucked into the club’s decadent, freewheeling lifestyle: he mingles with New York’s upper class, does an interview article/Christmas beefcake photo shoot for Interview Magazine, uses drugs, and sleeps around with multiple women (causing him to get the clap) as he "raises his profile" and makes a name for himself both inside and outside the club. However, Shane’s new stardom doesn’t protect him from being exploited and making him feel only valued for his sex appeal, or from being insulted and embarrassed when a guest at a Park Avenue dinner party he and Anita attend with Billie calls him a “gorgeous troglodyte”.

Shane’s fame also affects his relationships with his friends and family. Greg, who now deals drugs on the side for extra money, criticizes Shane for his conceited attitude on Christmas Eve and accuses him of trying to sleep with Anita after catching him making a pass at her once before at their apartment. Shane’s father Harlan, whom he hasn’t seen or spoken to since he moved to New York, rejects him when he comes home to visit on Christmas Day after a female family friend who got into 54 one night informs Harlan that she saw Shane doing drugs there. However, Shane does experience some brief happiness during the holidays when he strikes up a short-lived romance with his celebrity crush (and fellow New Jerseyan) Julie Black, a soap opera starlet determined to succeed in the film industry.

Shane, to his shock and disbelief, discovers Julie with Roland Sachs, an agent that she plans to sleep with to advance her career, causing Shane to reject her in disgust. After he nearly fights with Steve, Steve fires Shane and two of his bouncers throw Shane out of the club, forcing him to leave 54 the same way he entered: shirtless, and now having to cloak himself in an old garbage bag to keep warm. Simultaneously, the FBI raids 54 and arrests Steve for tax evasion, as he’s been skimming money from the club’s nightly take on a regular basis, even stashing some of the money in garbage bags in his office ceiling. As a now chastened and humbled Shane leaves 54 in disgrace, Julie passes by him in a limousine, and after a brief talk, they part ways but agree to remain friends.

In the epilogue, Shane reveals that Steve is convicted and sentenced to 18 months in jail, causing 54 to close as a result; upon release, he is forced to sell 54 but remains as a consultant under the new management. Julie, whom Shane still keeps in contact with, moves to Hollywood and gets a small part in a movie. Shane, Greg and Anita, however, drift apart. Anita records a moderately successful album with Casablanca Records, and Greg gets a job in construction after six months' probation for dealing drugs at 54. As for Shane himself, his relationship with his father has improved; he now visits his father and sisters weekly. He also works nights as a restaurant manager in Greenwich Village and takes business classes at NYU during the day. He, Greg and Anita reunite at the newly reopened 54, where Steve is hosting a one-night welcome-back party for all of his old friends and employees after his release from prison. Ultimately, 54 closes permanently in 1986, and Steve dies of AIDS in 1989 at age 45. Shane notes that though everybody assembled at 54 that night acted like normal, all realized that “the party was over”.

Director's cut[edit]

Shane’s original sporadic narration from the theatrical version is eliminated. The films opens with a new narration by a 40-year-old Ryan Phillippe as his character Shane, now sounding much older, wiser, and cynical than his younger self, is seen leaving 54 after being thrown out on New Year’s Eve, and leads into a narration of the movie's original opening.

Shane is bisexual in the director's cut; even kissing Billie’s gay associate Julian in 54's basement VIP room. In a moment of confusion and desperation, Shane kisses Greg in the VIP room on Christmas Eve after they commiserate on their terrible childhood Christmases and Greg comforts Shane as Shane breaks down and cries over his miserable family life, but Greg immediately backs off, stunned by what he’s just done. Shortly after Shane kisses Greg, he then has sex with Anita in the ladies’ room after she and Greg have a fight, and Steve watches them for a bit until Anita sees Steve, hits Shane in the stomach, and runs out of the ladies' room in shame. When Shane runs low on cash due to his numerous debts, Greg lets him in on his drug-dealing operation, and Shane steals some of Steve's skimmed cash as capital, leading to Steve's accountant Viv getting fired (Greg is the thief in the theatrical version); Shane returns the money to Steve on New Year's Eve. When Greg is finally willing to allow Steve to perform oral sex on him for the bartender job on New Year's Eve, Steve turns him down and says that he'd rather watch Greg and Anita have sex instead, since he watched Shane and Anita do so in the ladies’ room on Christmas Eve. Greg then goes to the cloakroom to confront Anita, and upon seeing her hugging Shane, punches Shane in the face and gets into a fistfight with him. After fighting with Greg and seeing Julie with Roland, Shane freebases cocaine to ease his emotional pain, against Billie’s wishes, leaving him in a daze as he continues bartending. After Greg and Anita reconcile following her interrupted debut performance, Anita briefly leaves with Billie for a photo op. Shane then discovers G-men raiding Steve’s office, with Viv (who turned Steve in to the FBI) standing by; he runs back upstairs to the bar to warn Greg and he apologizes for what he did with Anita, but Greg ignores him. Greg then runs to get his things from his locker when he sees Shane being thrown out of the club, but discovers that a G-man has already beat him to it and has found his drugs. After Shane is thrown out of 54, he turns and sees Greg running up behind him. Shane offers him his garbage bag cloak, and Greg begrudgingly accepts, though still hurt by Shane's betrayal. Anita comes running up seconds later in a fancy fur coat and cloaks Greg in it with her as they both depart, nearly leaving Shane behind. Greg calls for Shane to come along with them just as Julie pulls up alongside in her limousine and offers Shane a ride as consolation after her decision to leave with Roland. Shane declines and instead leaves with Greg and Anita, the three of them staying together as a family instead of drifting apart.

Cast[edit]

Production[edit]

Based on two short films Mark Christopher made, Miramax Films persuaded Christopher to direct the full-length feature about Studio 54. He had spent five years researching the club and the time period while working on a screenplay. Miramax purchased a partial screenplay in 1995 and developed the script with the filmmaker for over a year. Christopher shot the film in Toronto over two months in the fall of 1997. During the production, a Miramax executive was often present on the set and studio head Harvey Weinstein flew up from New York to give his approval.

In the 1998 version, Christopher finished his cut of the film and the studio scheduled the film's release for July of the following year. After initial positive reactions within the company and a test screening in Manhattan, further test screenings in the suburbs disappointed the studio. Audiences found the lead character's bisexuality unlikable and reacted negatively to a kiss between Shane and Greg. They also did not respond well to the happy ending for both of them and Anita.[3] Miramax requested cuts be made and Christopher initially refused.

Reception[edit]

54 opened at #4 in its opening weekend (August 28–30, 1998) with $6,611,532 behind Blade, There's Something About Mary, and Saving Private Ryan.[4]

The studio cut of the film received almost universally poor reviews but was a modest commercial success, grossing $16 million on an estimated budget of $13 million. Mike Myers, in his first serious dramatic role, garnered some of the film's only positive word-of-mouth. It was for the longest time his only foray into drama until 2009's Inglourious Basterds and 2018's Bohemian Rhapsody. Many critics were particularly disappointed with the film's fictional characters and storyline, believing that Studio 54's notorious, real-life past should have been explored more in detail and with better realism. The director's cut has received a much more positive critical response, and the film has a huge cult following among the LGBT community[citation needed].

On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 17%, based on 69 reviews, and an average rating of 4.19/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "Robbed of its integral LGBTQ themes, 54 is a compromised and disjointed glance at the glory days of disco".[5] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "C" on an A+ to F scale.[6]

The 1998 film was nominated for two Razzie Awards, including Worst Actor for Ryan Phillippe and Worst Supporting Actress for Ellen Albertini Dow.[7] Neve Campbell was nominated for Worst Supporting Actress (also for Wild Things) at the 1998 Stinkers Bad Movie Awards.

Home media[edit]

The 2012 Blu-ray release features several additional and alternate scenes that were not included in the theatrical release. This extended cut runs 100 minutes, eight minutes of which are not in the studio's 92-minute release. A 105-minute director's cut, restoring 44 minutes of original footage and deleting all but a few seconds of the studio-dictated re-shot footage, was screened in the Panorama section of the 65th Berlin International Film Festival in February 2015.[8] Miramax and Lionsgate Home Entertainment released 54: The Director's Cut in digital HD on streaming video providers on June 2, 2015.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "54". Box Office Mojo. Archived from the original on 22 August 2010. Retrieved 2010-09-29.
  2. ^ "Film Review: Studio 54 | Film Journal International". fj.webedia.us. Retrieved 2020-01-18.
  3. ^ Ascher-Walsh, Rebecca (1998-09-04). "The 411 On '54'". Entertainment Weekly (in Persian). Retrieved 2006-12-21.
  4. ^ "Weekend Box Office Results for August 28–30, 1998". Box Office Mojo. IMDb. Retrieved March 22, 2010.
  5. ^ "54 (2018)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved March 21, 2019.
  6. ^ "Home - Cinemascore". Cinemascore. Retrieved 28 December 2019.
  7. ^ Wilson, John (September 3, 2007). The Official Razzie Movie Guide: Enjoying the Best of Hollywoods Worst. Hachette UK. ISBN 978-0446510080. Retrieved 12 April 2018.
  8. ^ "Panorama 2015: Probing the Past to Shape the Future". Berlinale. Archived from the original on 2014-12-25. Retrieved 25 December 2014.

External links[edit]