The Last Days of Disco

History is made at night.

Premiered: In select US theaters on May 29th, 1998
Directed by: Whit Stillman
Genre: Comedy, Drama
MPAA Motion Picture Rating: Rated R for some elements involving sexuality and drugs

Cast:

Chloë Sevigny … as Alice Kinnon
Kate Beckinsale … as Charlotte
Chris Eigeman … as Des
Mackenzie Astin … as Jimmy
Matt Keeslar … as Josh
Robert Sean Leonard … as Tom
Jennifer Beals … as Nina
Matt Ross … as Dan
Tara Subkoff … as Holly
Burr Steers … as Van
David Thornton … as Bernie
Michael Weatherly … as Hap
Jaid Barrymore … as Tiger Lady

Status: Out on Region 1 DVD & Blu-Ray.

Overview
Memorable Alice Quotations
Said of Last Days of Disco
Last Days of Disco Trivia
Critical Reception
Last Days of Disco Online


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Content Warning: Please note that Chloë Sevigny has appeared in many R-rated movies which contain material unsuitable for young or sensitive audiences due to their mature, violent, frightening or otherwise graphic footage or content. If you are sensitive to this kind of content, some material presented on our site, such as screen caps and video clips from the movie itself, may not be suitable for you.


More photos in our Last Days of Disco gallery


Overview

From Criterion Collection:

The Last Days of Disco, from director Whit Stillman, is a cleverly comic look at the early 1980s Manhattan party scene from the vantage point of the late nineties. At the center of the film’s roundelay of revelers are the icy Charlotte and the demure Alice, by day toiling as publishing house assistants and by night looking for romance and entertainment at a Studio 54-like club. Brimming with Stillman’s trademark dry humor, The Last Days of Disco is an affectionate yet unsentimental look at the end of an era.

Chloë Sevigny stars in the film as Alice Kinnon, a soft-spoken but intelligent young woman who works at a publishing house with her more extroverted and forthright friend Charlotte. Alice and Charlotte converse throughout the movie about romance, dating and men as they frequent the city’s popular disco-themed nightclub looking for love.


Memorable Alice Quotations

Alice: “I heard you have a much better chance of getting in if you come by cab.”
Charlotte: “You’re really worried about getting in?”
Alice: “Yes.”
Charlotte: “I thought you’d been here several times before.”
Alice: “Not the front way. They were private parties. We came in the back.”
Charlotte: “We look really good tonight. I’m sure we’re going to get in.”
[Charlotte and Alice turn the corner and see an enormous queue in front of the club.]
Alice: “Let’s get a cab.”
Charlotte: “Maybe you’re right.”

Alice: “Phew! Oh God, we made it! This is the last time I’m coming here. I always want to be able to say, ‘I got into the club.'”
Charlotte: “Of course we got in. Who was the second guy you were interested in?”
Alice: “Tom Platt.”
Charlotte: “Oh, well! That’s a lot better.”
Alice: “How do you mean?”
Charlotte: “Well, Tom Platt’s smart and somewhat cool, a lawyer involved in environmental causes, not to mention tall, dark and handsome.”

Charlotte: “Do you like nightmares?”
Alice: “No.”
Charlotte: “Well, I do. It’s not obviously connected, but I think that’s what made me a little more tolerant of the guys at Hampshire.”
Alice: “What do you mean?”
Charlotte: “You were a bit critical. The guys there preferred women more laid-back.”
Alice: “I’m laid-back.”
[Charlotte sneers.]
Charlotte: “Well, for whatever reason, you didn’t have much of a social life there.”
Alice: “I had a social life. Just not one of those terrible pretend marriages. The Hampshire guys were jerks. Hippy-dippy suburbanites with all this hair and extremely dim intellectual interests. I’m sorry, I don’t consider the guy who did the Spiderman comics a serious writer.”
Charlotte: “Alice, one thing I’ve noticed is that people hate being criticized. Everyone hates that. It’s one of the great truths of human nature. I think it’s why my parents got divorced. I’m sorry. It’s just that you’re so terrific, it makes me sick to think you might get in that terrible situation again where everyone hated you.”
Alice: “Hated me?”
Charlotte: “You’re wonderful. Maybe, in physical terms, I’m a little cuter than you, but you should be much more popular than I am. It would be such a shame if what happened in college repeated itself.”
Alice: “Why would it repeat itself?”
Charlotte: “You’re right. I just think it’s so important to be in control of your own destiny, not to fall into that ’50s cliché of waiting by the phone for the guys to call. The right ones never do. Those who do, you have to make the most ridiculous excuses to. The nice ones get hurt feelings and hate you. The jerks inevitably corner you into going out anyway. Late at night you find yourself with some awful guy with disgusting breath, thrusting his belly up against you, trying to stick his slobbering tongue in your mouth. Ugh. Thank God this is a whole new era in music and social models..!”

Alice: “I think it’s much better to wait until things happen naturally. Forcing things never work.”
Charlotte: “That’s not true. Forcing things usually works beautifully. You know, even if he’s in advertising, someone will want him. I just think it’s so important that we be in control of our own destinies.”

Alice: “What’s wrong?”
Jimmy: “Absolute disaster.”
Alice: “What?”
Jimmy: “I had to get some clients into the club, so I gave the boss my coat to wear. ‘Here, wear this.’ It was really stupid. I can’t believe what an idiot I am.”
Alice: “Why? Your coat’s nice.”
Jimmy: “Well, that’s just it, it is nice. But this guy’s– Marshall’s– clothes are hideous. It’s famous. But to give him my coat to put over them… so stupid. It’s just really stupid.”
Alice: “It’s not stupid. This club is really hard to get into.”
Jimmy: “It was unbelievably, incredibly dumb. He’s a really nice guy and I insulted him. And this nice guy that I stupidly insulted is basically my boss. God, it was really stupid.”
Alice: “I guess you’re right. It was pretty stupid.”

Alice: “Who’s she?”
Tom: “They call her ‘Tiger Lady’.”
Alice: “It’s actually a cheetah pattern she’s wearing.”
Tom: “At some point, she wore a tiger pattern. It’s always something very slinky and sexy.”

[Alice listens in on Des’ conversation with a girlfriend he’s trying to break up with.]
Charlotte: “Finished eavesdropping?”
Alice: “I wasn’t eavesdropping.”
Charlotte: “Come on. Anything interesting?”
Alice: “Shhhh. God!”
Charlotte: “Listen, it’s much better you’re with Tom than Jimmy. You two really look great together.”
Alice: “You think so?”
Charlotte: “It’s too bad we weren’t closer friends in college. I think I could really have helped you there. For most guys, sexual repressiveness is a turn-off.”
[Alice’s eyes narrow.]
Alice: “You’re saying this for my benefit?”
Charlotte: “You’re a good conversationalist, but… there’s something of the kindergarten teacher about you. It’s really nice, but the guys you like also tend to be on the ethereal side. It can get pretty far away from any kind of physicality. This is gonna sound dumb, but it really works. Whenever you can, throw the word ‘sexy’ into your conversation. It’s kind of a signal. Like, um… ‘There’s something really sexy about strobe lights.’ Or, uh… [closing her eyes] ‘This fabric is so sexy.'”
[Hap sits down next to the girls on the couch without them noticing.]
Hap: “Yeah, it is.”

Alice: “Going to Harvard must’ve been great.”
Tom: “Well…”
Alice: “The people at Hampshire were nice, and pretty smart, in a non-traditional way, but I was out of place there. I’m sorry, I don’t consider the guy who did the Spiderman comics a serious writer.”
Tom: “Yeah, I thought it was the Green Hornet people took more seriously.”
Des: “Hey, Tom. Excuse me, are you Alice?”
[Alice nods.]
Des: “Jimmy Steinway gave me this vodka-tonic to give to you, but I’m afraid I sampled it. I’ll get you another.”
Hap: “Jimmy’s gone?”
Des: “You’re ‘Hap’? Yeah, he wanted me to tell you he’s sorry, but he was ejected from the club.”
Hap: “He was ejected?”
Des: “Apparently he snuck one of his clients in the back of the club.”
Alice: “That’s odd he knew I drink vodka-tonics. I never told him.”
Des: “It’s uncanny.”
Alice: “You mean, it’s a complete cliché? ‘All women recent college graduates drink vodka-tonics,’ or something like that?”
Des: “Well, maybe.”
Alice: “So Jimmy thinks I’m a total cliché.”
Charlotte: “I ordered a vodka-tonic, too. So what? You’re plenty original without having to order some weirdo drink.”
Des: “Yeah, I wouldn’t worry about it. Can I get you another?”
Alice: “Thanks. Actually, if you don’t mind, I think I’d prefer… um…. uh, a whiskey sour.”

Tom: “Would you like anything to drink?”
[Alice nods.]
Tom: “What?”
Alice: “Um… Could I have… a pernod?”
Tom: “Sure. This is supposed to be good for cigarrette mouth. Do you smoke?”
Alice: “When I drink or go out at night, I usually smoke. I live dangerously. On the edge. [rolls her eyes] I’m no kindergarten teacher.”
[Alice walks over to Tom’s collection of comics.]
Alice: “What’s this?”
Tom: “Um, I collect original edition Scrooge McDuck comics. I know it sounds a little odd…”
Alice: “Not at all.”
Tom: “This is original artwork by Carl Barks who created the Uncle Scrooge comics. He’s considered a bit of a genius.”
Alice: “There’s something really sexy about Scrooge McDuck.”
Tom: “You really think so?”
Alice: “I love Uncle Scrooge.”

Dan: “That stuff is such crap.”
Alice: “This does describe a lot of bestsellers. That’s true.”
Dan: “It’s completely formulaic.”
Charlotte: “Of course it’s formulaic. It’s a formula.”

Charlotte: “Alice and I have been looking at apartments, but we can’t afford one on what we get as assistants.”
[Dan laughs.]
Dan: “That’s so comical.”
Charlotte: “What?”
Dan: “That girls like you really worry about paying rent. Aren’t your fathers heavily subsidizing your living expenses with big allowances?”
Charlotte: “They’re not big at all.”
Dan: “In a few years you’ll marry some incredibly rich corporate lawyers. It’s not as if you really worry about paying the rent like the rest of us.”
Alice: “Oh, you worry about paying the rent?”
Dan: “Yeah.”
Alice: “Then you’re way ahead of us, coz we don’t even have an apartment.”

Alice: “Do you really think we know each other well enough to room together?”
Charlotte: “Well, maybe that’s good.”
Alice: “It’s not just that we don’t know each other well. I’m not even sure we really like each other.”
Charlotte: “That’s ok. You know, Alice, I’m not so much of a bitch as I might seem.”

Dan: “Alice, what would your dream book to publish be if you could publish any book?”
Alice: “Anything that might become a bestseller.”
Dan: “Aside from that. Your dream book.”
Alice: “I’d say… a collection of new J.D. Salinger stories, but more in the direction of The Laughing Man, or Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters, but not Hapworth 16 or Seymour: An Introduction.”
Dan: “Did you know that, in his own day, Mary McCarthy and Alfred Kazin wrote devastating pieces on Salinger?”
Alice: “No.”
Dan: “Yeah. They really destroyed him.”

Josh: “Take the tortoise and the hare. Ok, the tortoise won one race. Do you think that hare is really gonna lose any more races to turtles? Not on your life.”
Alice: “I liked that tortoise.”
Josh: “So do I, but if you were a betting person, would you say, ‘That tortoise won against the hare. In future races, I’m backing him?’ No. That race was almost certainly a fluke, and afterwards the tortoise is still a tortoise and the hare, a hare.”

Dan: “Hi.”
Alice: “Hi.”
Dan: “How’s Holly?”
Alice: “Fine.”
Dan: “Is she, um, going out with anyone?”
Alice: “Yeah, this really nice guy who went to Denver University and works in real estate. He found her this incredibly cheap apartment.”
Dan: “She no longer lives with you guys?”
[Alice shakes her head.]
Dan: “You hold what happened against me.”
Alice: “Not that you broke up, just that you go out with people based primarily on looks.”
Dan: “Holly’s also very nice.”
Alice: “A lot of people are nice. You only asked out the fabulously good-looking one.”
Dan: “You hold that against me.”
Alice: “Well, pretty shallow.”
Dan: “You know, Alice, except for politics, we’ve got a lot in commmon. We’re both pretty serious and, I think, respect each other’s bases for judgment. Occasionally, I get reactionary thoughts, too.”
Alice: “I’m not reactionary.”
Dan: “Well, aesthetically.”
Alice: “Oh, well, aesthetically.”

[Tom and Alice are having dinner. Alice tells Tom he gave her an STD.]
Tom: “You mean, you think I gave it to you? How can you be sure?”
Alice: “I’m sure.”
Tom: “Well, you were a lot more… active than I was.”
[Alice frowns.]
Tom: “You were obviously very experienced.”
Alice: “No.”
Tom: “Oh, come on. How did you know all that?”
Alice: “Well, I read. A lot.”
Tom: “You must’ve been with some guys? You weren’t a virgin?”
Alice: “Well, I didn’t consider myself a virgin, but…”
Tom: “What?”
Alice: “I don’t know. Technically…”
Tom: “What?”
Alice: “If I’m making love, the man… spurts… outside the woman… Does that count as sexual intercourse?”
Tom: “‘Spurts?'”
Alice: “If it squirts outside, without getting in… Does that count as losing your virginity?”
Tom: “No part of the man got in at any time?”
Alice: “I don’t think so.”
Tom: “I think part has to get in to be considered sexual intercourse.”
Alice: “So then I was a virgin.”
Tom: “Oh… I can’t believe that. The first time you make love, I… I give you both ‘g’ and an ‘h’ infection.”
Alice: “… ‘H?'”

Alice: “I’m beginning to think that maybe that old system of people getting married based on mutual respect and shared aspirations, and then slowly over time earning each other’s love and aspiration, worked the best.”

Josh: “How serious are you and Des? Is it absolutely, completely, irrevocably serious?”
[Alice shrugs.]
Josh: “Did he tell you the story about how he was traumatized by a Radcliffe girl taking off her shirt, suddenly revealing her largish breasts which he’d never thought about before? He tells that story all the time to get sympathy and to justify himself, as if he were the victim of female aggressiveness and duplicity.”
Alice: “That wasn’t true?”
Josh: “No, it was true. He was the victim of female aggressiveness and duplicity, but so was everyone else. Not everyone then went on a rampage exploiting the opposite sex.”
Alice: “He thinks his problem is just that he falls in love a lot.”
Josh: “Well, a lot of people fall in love a lot. I’m really surprised you’d be taken in by him.”
Alice: “You should notice I didn’t answer your original question.”
Josh: “My original question… Whether you were absolutely committed to Des, you didn’t answer?”

Josh: “A lot of people like to say they won’t take ‘no’ for an answer. I just wanted you to know that I’m not one of them. I can be easily discouraged. I will take ‘no’ for an answer.”
Alice: “Okay. No.”
Josh: “You don’t mean that.”
Alice: “No.”
[Both laugh.]

Alice: “Are you aware all your clothes are slightly big?”
Josh: “I’m still waiting for my growing spurt.”

Alice: “Have you seen Josh at all?”
Jimmy: “Yeah.”
Alice: “Is he okay?”
Jimmy: “Sure. Why wouldn’t he be okay?”
Alice: “I don’t know. He hasn’t called in a while.”
Jimmy: “Josh is a bit thin-skinned. He’s the kind of guy who will take ‘no’ for an answer.”
[Jimmy picks up a photo of him with Tom and Alice.]
Jimmy: “Sag Harbor.”
Alice: “Did you know I was sort of infatuated with you then?”
[Jimmy shakes his head.]
Jimmy: “I assumed you preferred Tom. Also, you seemed a little… irritating.”
Alice: “How was I irritating?”
Jimmy: “Well… you weren’t. There’s no chance of you getting infatuated with me again, is there?”
[Alice looks away.]
Jimmy: “Just had to confirm that.”


Said of Last Days of Disco

Select quotations regarding the film from Chloë Sevigny and her co-workers: Coming soon/not available.


Last Days of Disco Trivia

• Since completing Last Days of Disco in 1998, Chloë Sevigny has worked with director Whit Stillman on both the Amazon.com pilot The Cosmopolitans (2014) and the 2015 film Love & Friendship, the latter of which also stars Chloë’s Disco co-star Kate Beckinsale. Chloë also remains close friends with co-star Tara Subkoff, with whom she has since collaborated on e.g. Subkoff’s fashion label Imitation of Christ and her 2015 feature film debut #Horror. Chloë also worked closely with co-star Matt Ross on HBO’s Big Love from 2006 to 2011, in which they played siblings. Chloë and Ross both appear in the 2000 movie American Psycho, as well, but do not share any scenes.

• The disco seen in the movie was actually an old movie theater being renovated in Jersey City, New Jersey.

• According to IMDb, while director Whit Stillman wanted Chloë Sevigny to play the role of Alice, the production company wanted to cast a bigger name for the role and put in a call to Winona Ryder’s agent with a firm offer. However, because Ryder’s agent took four days to return the call and Chloë had already read for the part and done well, the producers pulled back their offer to Ryder and cast Chloë instead.

• According to IMDb, Chloë was cast in the role of Alice in part on the recommendation of film editor Christopher Tellefsen, who also edited her performance in Kids (1995).


Critical Reception

The Last Days of Disco has received some mixed but mostly positive reviews over the years. Although not a commercial hit, the movie has become something of a cult classic for its highly articulate young characters and its nostalgic embracing of disco culture.

Rating: Internet Movie Database: 6.6/10 with c. 9,000 user votes counted
Rating: MetaCritic: 76/100 metascore, “Generally favorable reviews”
Rating: Rotten Tomatoes: 71% positive reviews (“Fresh”)

Excerpts from professional reviews:

“If Scott Fitzgerald were to return to life, he would feel at home in a Whit Stillman movie. Stillman listens to how people talk, and knows what it reveals about them. His characters have been supplied by their Ivy League schools with the techniques but not the subjects of intelligent conversation, and so they discuss ‘The Lady and the Tramp’ with the kind of self-congratulatory earnestness that French students would reserve for Marx and Freud. (Their analysis of the movie is at least as funny as the Quentin Tarantino character’s famous deconstruction of ‘Top Gun’ in the movie ‘Sleep With Me’.) Stillman has the patience to circle a punch line instead of leaping straight for it. He’ll establish something in an early scene and then keep nibbling away until it delivers. [—] The movie has barely enough plot to hold it together; it involves drugs and money laundering, but it’s typical of Stillman that most of the suspense involves the young D.A. fretting about a romantic conflict of interest. The underlying tone of the film is sweet, fond and a little sad: These characters believe the disco period was the most wonderful period of their lives, and we realize that it wasn’t disco that was so special, but youth.”
– Roger Ebert, RogerEbert.com

“The title of the movie gave a lot of people expectations that would not serve the movie well. Coming off the heels of Boogie Nights and just months before 54, The Last Days of Disco was not an over-the-top exploration of excess and drugs. Instead, its a low-key character-driven comedy about young professionals in the early 80s trying to adjust their moral compass. [—] Where Metropolitan‘s costume and art direction incongruities suggest that it could take place in any number of years (or decades), The Last Days of Disco is very much tied to its cultural moment by its music and any number of pop culture references. [—] Stillman’s light touch for revealing humanity in the most unexpected of ways, however, is timeless.”
– Eric Melin, Scene-Stealers.com

“As in Stillman’s other films, these characters, while representing distinct personalities, cohere as a group into a collective representation of a particular slice of the human experience, even if that experience is presented in the kind of hyperstylized dialogue that we can only wish to speak with the same off-the-cuff dexterity and fluidity. Stillman has a way with words, and he directs his actors to deploy them with a casual elegance that makes the dialogue seem natural. Stillman also has a gift for spinning conversations around familiar elements of literature and pop culture that, in his characters’ mouths, become laden with specific meaning. Thus, we get genuine insight into Josh when he lets loose his real feelings about the romance in Disney’s Lady and the Tramp, and Des, despite his overt caddishness, is never more sympathetic and insightful than when he’s ruminating on the limitations of Shakespeare’s quote ‘To thineself be true’ (what if ‘thineself’ is not a good thing?). [—] There is a plot in The Last Days of Disco, or, rather, a number of subplots that weave together the main characters’ various romantic travails and social dynamics with an investigation into money laundering and other criminal activities at the club. This is the film’s most conventional and, not surprisingly, weakest element, as Stillman attempts to literalize the film’s title in connecting the eventual crackdown on the club with the American culture’s eventual rejection of disco music and the characters’ ever-present need to fully grow up.”
– James Kendrick, Film Desk Reviews

Awards & Nominations

The Last Days of Disco has received 1 award and 1 award nomination.

Won:

• London Critics Circle ALFS Award (1999): British Supporting Actress of the Year (Kate Beckinsale)

Nominated:

• ALMA Award (1999): Outstanding Performance of a Song for a Feature Film (India, “I Love the Night Life”)

Chloë Sevigny Online

Please note that the opinions expressed below are all 100% our own, not those of Chloë Sevigny or anyone affiliated with either her or the rest of the cast or crew.

I think The Last Days of Disco is one of those movies you have to watch a couple of times to fully appreciate. Although its central characters are never entirely likable, Disco is also not a “character-driven” story in the traditional sense. If you feel like you can’t find a character to relate to in the film, you are actually on the right track, because you’re really not supposed to either root for a particular character or join them on some special journey. Instead, you’re meant to enjoy their conversation; the precision of every word, the frankness of the observations and the comedy in the irrationality of the high style with which the characters speak of the silliest of subjects. It’s once you really start catching writer-director Stillman’s jabs at some of the little absurdities of the lives and troubles of his characters, not the least as presented to the tune of some of the most iconic ’70s disco hits, that you realize that it doesn’t really matter whether or not you like any of these people, and you’re better able to tap into the humor that is in fact strewn all over the film. And it’s really quite terrific how it all comes together.

As for the film’s two central ladies, Chloë Sevigny and Kate Beckinsale really make a great pair. Both exude throughout the film that aloofness and mild but omnipresent condescension you would expect of an Ivy League college graduate, and both are able to play the differences of their characters off the performance of the other. Although Alice as a character is not my favorite person Chloë’s ever played — it’s that relatability again — she is nonetheless unlike anything Chloë has done before or since, and the extraordinary beauty her character radiates throughout just takes your breath away every scene. -Admin

Our rating of the movie: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Our rating of Chloë’s performance: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆


Last Days of Disco Online

Below are some Last Days of Disco-related links that may be of interest to you.

The Last Days of Disco official site
The Last Days of Disco on IMDb.com
The Last Days of Disco on MetaCritic.com
The Last Days of Disco on RottenTomatoes.com
The Last Days of Disco on Wikipedia.org

• Whit Stillman on WhitStillman.org

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