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film review

Co-owners of Studio 54, Ian Schrager and Steve Rubell. Studio 54 was the epicenter of 70s hedonism – a place that not only redefined the nightclub, but also came to symbolize an entire era.Courtesy of FilmsWeLike

  • Studio 54
  • Directed by: Matt Tyrnauer
  • Starring: Ian Schrager
  • Classification: 14A; 98 minutes


2.5 out of 4 stars

They loved the nightlife, they got to boogie – they got nailed for tax evasion. The lively, contextual but much-too-laudatory documentary Studio 54 tells the rise and fall of Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager, college buddies who graduated to nightclub infamy. The duo dreamed up Studio 54, a former CBS-owned theatre in Manhattan that for a heady 33 months operated as a temple of dance, debauchery and three-dollar highballs. The film is initially stimulating as it sets the mid-seventies disco scene as a time of non-judgmental highlife. Studio 54 was a be-yourself escape place, with the extra bonus of routine celebrity sightings. As Rubell died of AIDS-related illness in 1989, it’s a rationalizing and occasionally coy Schrager who does the explaining in the film. He refuses to admit that their money-skimming operation was a result of greed. Rather, he chalks it up to success going to their heads. The duo, whose lawyer was the ruthless Trump attorney Roy Cohn, shamelessly threw others under the bus. Director Tyrnauer lets them off the hook, using newspaper quotes to accuse them of “tremendous arrogance” instead of being confrontational himself. The film ends with the mention of Schrager’s full pardon in 2017 by President Obama. If the discotheque was non-judgmental, so is the film.

Studio 54 was a be-yourself escape place, with the extra bonus of routine celebrity sightings.Courtesy of FilmsWeLike

Studio 54 opens Oct. 12 in Toronto, Montreal and Calgary