Double Feature

August 2022 - For some reason, I've been thinking a lot about the Seventies lately. Can't imagine why. At any rate, let's take a look at a movie and a man that each helped to define the era.

In the R-rated Saturday Night Fever, John Travolta sells paint by day and rules the dance floor by night. The supporting cast includes Karen Gorney and Donna Pescow. Future Saturday Night Live cast member Denny Dillon appears briefly. So does future nanny Fran Drescher. John Badham directs.

Travolta plays Tony Manero, a 19 year old who lives with his parents in Brooklyn. At night, Tony and his friends hang out at the local disco, the one place where Tony feels good about himself. Annette (Pescow) wants to be his girlfriend, but what little hope she has goes right out the window when Tony meets the older, slightly more sophisticated Stephanie (Gornley) and asks her to be his partner in an upcoming dance contest.

Overall review: Ehhh, it was OK. Forty-five years have passed since Saturday Night Fever debuted in 1977. The film has not aged well. The music and the disco scenes hold up, but the rest of the film leaves a lot to be desired. For one thing, I found the characters, including Tony, very unlikeable. The only one who seems to have a job is Tony. Who knows what, if anything, the rest of them do other than take drugs, disrespect women and raise hell in the neighborhood. And, with the possible exception of Stephanie, the women barely respect themselves. I was too young to see this movie when it first came out. Now, I feel like I'm too old to be seeing it for the first time.

Famed hairdresser Vidal Sassoon was all over TV in the Seventies. Still, when he passed away in 2012, at least one of my younger co-workers exclaimed, "You mean he was a real person?"

A few days after Sassoon's death, I came across a 2010 documentary called Vidal Sassoon: The Movie. It features extensive interviews with Sassoon as it traces his journey from an impoverished childhood in London to worldwide renown.

As a small child, Sassoon and his mother were abandoned by Vidal's father, eventually forcing his mother to send little Vidal to an orphanage. The family was still dirt poor when a teenage Vidal became an apprentice to London's most fashionable hair stylist even though Vidal's mother couldn't afford to pay the man's usual fee. That apprenticeship set Sassoon on a path that would eventually make his name synonymous with hair.

Overall review: Ehhh, it was OK. For a man who led the life he did, this documentary is surprisingly boring. It contains extensive interviews with Sassoon, personal pictures, home movies, clips of TV shows and commercials, and a glimpse into his charity work. Despite all of that, the documentary seems lacking. Problems are glossed over and success seems too easy. I don't think we ever get a sense of what it really took for him to get where he got.