The further removed we are from past events, the higher the likelihood we credit them with a significance they might not have had. The recent nature of the goings-on in Fabrizio Conte’s disco memoir Club Life is just one of the film’s problems, though it does suggest there should be a sort of “minimum safe historical distance” rule for semi-autobiographical films.
It’s 2008, and limo driver Johnny D (Jerry Ferrara) is looking for a way to cover medical costs for his recently hospitalized father. After a chance encounter with nightclub promoter Mark (Danny A. Abeckaser), he stumbles upon what has to be considered a fairly dubious destiny: rounding up young, attractive women to lure high rollers into the club to spend their hedge fund bonuses on Cristal bottle service. Movies centered on New York nightlife usually allude to the dissolute nature of the lifestyle (Saturday Night Fever) or the weltschmerz of the times (The Last Days of Disco).
Club Life doesn’t, chronicling Johnny’s inevitable rise to success in the most matter-of-fact and abbreviated manner possible. The movie clocks in at a spare 85 minutes, probably 10 of which are quote-unquote stylistically decelerated dance scenes. Ferrara, best known as “Turtle” on HBO’s Entourage, plays what is essentially a muted version of that character. Abeckaser is more believable, which is unsurprising, since the movie is loosely based on his own experiences.
This also probably explains the self-important tone, capped off by a hilarious slideshow of “New York Nightlife Legends” that plays during the end credits (and that will be incomprehensible to viewers outside the five boroughs). Don’t feel bad about skipping the line for Club Life.