Screen Style: The Last Days of Disco (1998)
Before we get into anything, I realize that Whit Stilman films are an acquired taste. I love them, of course, and while Metropolitan — in all its Gossip Girl-esque glory — is my favourite, The Last Days of Disco is his most stylish. The clothing is necessarily representative of the disco era (the film takes place in the early ’80s), but really a nod to American (yuppie) minimalism and ’90s Calvin Klein era. It’s easy for me to fall in love with anything attached to Chloë Sevigny’s face and body, as I adore the way she wears clothes. Her character Alice and her frenemy Charlotte (played by Kate Beckinsale in her more adorable days) are recent college grads with dreams of climbing the book publishing ladder and a penchant for nightlife. They are both wonderfully flawed people, with Charlotte taking on the sort of an accidental mean girl role — in which she is flawless, of course.
As all the Stilman films, The Last Days of Disco is filled with punchy dialogue about pretty much everything from the meaning of life to the anti-feminist plot behind Lady and the Tramp (“He’s a self-confessed chicken thief, and all-around sleaze ball!”). As ridiculous as they can be, the characters are smart and well-educated individuals, and their clothing reflects that. There are no over-the-top disco goddess ensembles or ostentatious eye makeup of the era. In the world of the Upper East Side, the little black dress rules the nightlife. Take for example the crisp one-shoulder number Alice wears during her one night stand with Robert Sean Leonard’s douchey Tom. It’s sultry, yet cute enough to let her get away with uttering the “There’s something sexy about Scrooge McDuck” line.
The film was released as part of The Criterion Collection a couple of years ago, along with Metropolitan. I suggest you watch them back-to-back and on repeat.