Underpaid juniors in a New York publishing office by day, at night Charlotte and Alice are transformed into sequined disco dollies, hanging out under the glitterball with the assortment of old college chums, upwardly mobile types and scuzzballs whilst getting caught up in a narratives that revolve around romance, flat-sharing, pregnancy, venereal disease and frugging.
Cinema's current nostalgia fixation may have reached saturation point of late, but just as the novelty threatens to wear thin, cult American director Whit Stillman (Metropolitan, Barcelona) injects new life into the flagging trend with his best, most commercial offering to date.
It's the very early 80s, and the disco era is struggling to survive, but that doesn't deter the world-beatingly bitchy Charlotte (Beckinsale) and her put-upon, socially inept best pal Alice (Sevigny) from their nocturnal activities. Underpaid juniors in a New York publishing office by day, at night they are transformed into sequined disco dollies, hanging out under the glitterball with the assortment of old college chums, upwardly mobile types and scuzzballs who populate their favourite club.
Those familiar with Stillman will recognise his leisurely, cerebral brand of filmmaking, his strong characterisation and sparky screen chatter coming across as effectively as in his previous two outings. In fact, there's a pervading sense of dèja vu here, as Beckinsale, Sevigny and their eclectic, intellectual dancefloor companions - bisexual bouncer Des (Eigemann), "dancing ad man" Jimmy (Mackenzie Astin) cartoon-fixated lawyer Tom (Robert Sean Leonard), upstanding D.A. Josh (Matt Keeslar), and unlikely love interest Dan (Matt Ross) - grapple with romance, flat-sharing, pregnancy, venereal disease and frugging to a selection of toe-tapping beats over the course of two hugely entertaining hours.
Despite its occasionally complicated plot and over-intrusive support cast (with this many characters vying for attention, proceedings become a bit cluttered at times), Disco works best as a compendium of delightful, beautifully acted set pieces - Alice's attempt to come to terms with her virginity loss is touchingly comic, while a brilliantly funny group dissection of the canine values displayed by Lady And The Tramp ranks among this film-year's most inspired moments.
By choosing well-rounded, likeable characters (even the mean-spirited Charlotte, played by Beckinsale with an impeccable transatlantic twang), an excellent script and lesser known sounds of disco, (not an Abba tune in sight), Stillman has created an affectionate, original and highly memorable tribute to a bygone age.
Stillman has created an affectionate, original and highly memorable tribute to a bygone age.