Title: Thank God It's Friday
Director: Robert Klane
Staring: Jeff Goldblum, Marya Small, Chick Vennera, Mark Lonow, Andrea Howard, Ray Vitte, Chuck Sacci
Plot: Set over the course of one night at the hip LA night club “The Zoo” following the intertwining stories of the patrons and staff on the night of their big dance contest.
The cast of characters are a certainly a colorful bunch to say the least, including the uber sleazy Tony Di Marco (Jeff Goldblum) who uses the club as his personal pick up joint, Jackie (Marya Small) who by day is a dental hygienist and drugged up disco freak come the weekend and the self confessed leather man as well as spontaneous disco dancer Marv (Chick Vennera) to name but a few of the fun characters we meet through the course of the night as they all pursue their own personal goals of hooking up, dancing or just trying to get to the club as in the case of the Floyd (DeWayne Jessie) the roadie for “The Commodores” who frequently can’t seem to catch a break as he tries desperately to get to the club in time for their set. Still despite the numourous story lines the main story at the heart of the film is that of the young straight edge couple Dave (Mark Lonow) and Sue (Andrea Howard), celebrating their wedding anniversary and end up going to “The Zoo” after an impulsive decision to go dancing by Sue. What soon follows is their wide eyed induction into the crazy disco scene, as Sue finds herself the target of Club Owner Tony’s advances after he makes a bet with The Zoo’s resident DJ Bobby Speed (Ray Vitte), meanwhile Dave is soon taken under the spaced out wing of Disco freak Jackie who soon has him hopped up on drugs and referring to himself by his new alter ego “Babbakazoo”.
Despite being a largely no name cast with the always enjoyable Goldblum being pretty much the only named actor making another memorable early appearance, having only just established himself as an actor after playing various bit roles including his memorable debut as one of the thugs in “Death Wish” . Still despite the lack of named actors, all of the cast are more than believable in their roles even when it comes to the more flamboyant and fantastical characters which could easily have turned out irritating such walking punchline such as Gus (Chuck Sacci) who not only has a serious temper, but also the questionable catchphrase of “You bet your sweet ass your sorry” when not looking for his date, as he sets about causing random acts of destruction or just generally threatening anyone who happens to bump into him, in what is just one of the numerous running jokes, aswell as Floyd’s constantly being stopped by the cops on his way to the club or just people constantly crashing into Tony’s Porsche. A car which he seemingly loves almost as much as himself. Thankfully Director Klane restrains from running them into the ground just because they prove to be funny more than once. The humour of the film really is an advantage that TGIF has over the other disco movies, a key ingredient that would be missing from many of the other disco movies, which tended to play to more straight as if trying to provide a snapshot of the disco era, which arguably is somthing that TGIF also does better not only capturing the funky sounds and certainly questionable fashions of the era, but also feels so self contained, almost like a postcard from the era as it almost perfectly captures the year of it’s release on film, as Director Robert Klane feels free to move through the club as he pleases stopping off with one character before moving on to the next to help carve a colourful and fun picture of the disco scene, while also using real nightclub “Osko’s” which not only boasted four dance floors but also an ice cavern themed room known as “The Cave” all of which can be seen throughout the film (including some brutal footage of the club’s strobe lights), as can the club’s owner Osko Karaghassian, who puts in a cameo as a club bouncer. The club has however since been demolished making this film perhaps the only real document of the club’s existence.
The other advantage the film has is it’s refusal to turn into a moralistic tale about the dangers of drugs or promiscuous sex, by flat out refusing to let anyone spoil the fun by becoming overly serious, instead focusing on leaving you with the same euphoric feeling of a great night out and it largely succeeds even with the majority of the mainstream (for it’s time) humour and numerous storyline that Director Klane somehow manages to juggle throughout.
Sadly the film would prove to be both a critical and commercial failure, with film critic Leonard Maltin, not only rating the film as “BOMB” but also going on record to say that it was “Perhaps the worst film to ever win any kind of Academy Award” but then this is the same man who didn’t get Fulci’s “The Beyond” either. Today it seems that the film has largely forgotten and it was only by chance that I stumbled across it on late night TV and this also can also be seen with it’s current availability, with the film currently only been released on region 1 DVD which is good news If you have access to a multi region DVD player or live stateside, otherwise it can be picked up pretty cheap on VHS for those of you like myself who never threw out their Video players when the rest of the world upgraded to DVD.
While other clubbing movies would follow in the wake of the death of Disco all trying to create a time capsule of the clubbing scene they represent such as “Human Traffic” and it’s portrayal of the 90’s clubbing scene or Avangelina Ao’s little seen “Nightlife trilogy” (for those of you who like underground indie movies), would come close yet ultimately would get caught up with their genre restrictions, while even the biopic “54” about the famous New York club “Studio 54” also fell foul of bringing morals into the actions of it’s characters, rather than focusing on the decadence the club was more famous for and perhaps this is what makes this such a special and unique film and worth watching for what is truly the essential snapshot of the days of disco.