Behind the Music

Studio 54 is introduced, in a dopey voiceover given to busboy Shane O'Shea (Ryan Phillippe), as owner Steve Rubell's dream of democratic decadence--a nonstop party with no rules, once you were allowed past the velvet rope. Christopher's 54 is a vision of showbiz beatitude with hardly any beat and very little to show. Too bad Christopher didn't put Rubell himself at the center--particularly since, in an underwritten or severely scissored role, the Brooklyn mogul is played, in an inspired bit of casting, by Mike Meyers as the snickering, 'luded Nero of New York City nightlife.

As released, however, 54 seems a pale imitation of Boogie Nights, focusing on the education of the dumb but winsome Shane, who flees Jersey City to become a bare-chested bartender serving (and servicing) the gods at their revels--"one big bender with business cards," in the conventional wisdom of the pretty soap star (Neve Campbell), also from Jersey, whom Shane covets. Rumor has it that the movie has achieved its relatively svelte 89-minute running time by eliminating Shane's opportunistic homosexual trysts. And that's not the only thing missing.

Anyone who sat through The Last Days of Disco might find themselves searching the balcony for the well-bred Stillmanettes who populated last spring's vision of the Great Good Place. Last Days wasn't much of a movie, but it did create the occasion for a splendid CD. 54 can't even say that.

Details

Why Do Fools Fall in Love
Directed by Gregory Nava
Written by Tina Andrews
A Warner Bros. release

54
Written and directed by Mark Christopher
A Miramax release

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Leave town for a week and you never know what may happen. I can't say I mind seeing my name in movie ads but I was surprised to read myself credited with calling Your Friends&Neighbors "a fascinating erotic comedy." What I actually wrote was that Your Friends & Neighbors was "a fascinatingly mean-spirited erotic comedy," which is not only a less infelicitous use of the language but a better pull quote.

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