HPPUB MOVIE REVIEWs of 54, Pleasantville, The Cider House Rules


Title:  54  (Fifty-Four)

Release Date:  1998

Nationality and Language: English

Running time: 96 min

MPAA Rating:  R

Distributor and Production Company:  Miramax

Director; Writer: Mark Christopher


Cast:   Mike Myers, Ryan Philippe, Breckin Meyer


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            This film depicts the "glory days" of the mixed disco Studio 54 in New York City, during the late 1970's, before its owner and management were busted for drug dealing. A young kid played by Ryan Phillippe, sitting in his middle class frame house in "Jersey" dreams of the glitz of New York City. (Particularly silly is the scene in the Lincoln Tunnel where the state line between the "News" is shown).

            Studio 54, of course, admitted you if you were one or both of the following: (1) rich and famous, or (2) young and beautiful to look at. It seems like getting in was a big privilege. The obnoxious owner is played by comedy king Mike Myers (he isn't really very funny in this movie) and he specifically lets Phillippe in if he'll take off his shirt and pass “inspection.” (Of course, the kid has no hair on his chest; he’s young enough.) Later, Phillippe gets drawn into the shady world that will strip away his youthful innocence.

            Of course, all of this does raise a point. Leather bars may have their "dress codes," but what if most gay discos today practiced intentional "age segregation"?  When a disco is a public accommodation, it's illegal, but I could argue that a bar owner should be allowed to (it's his own property) and there might be good things to come from the practice. And, after all, I was young once myself. Maybe I'm supposed to stay with my own kind and leave younger people alone (sometimes they may feel distracted on the dance floor by the gawking)! Semi-private parties and circuit parties often do have restrictions on who can get in, on the theory that younger patrons want will only come if they find a certain “desirable” clientelle. I actually was turned away from a small club once for no apparent reason (the bouncer said I looked drunk when I had not had even one drop of alcohol), but in another case an establishment went out of the way to accommodate me when I was on crutches from a hip fracture.

            There are problems with the acting in this film. Barback and bartender "Greg" (played by Breckin Meyer) seems too wholesomely all-American (looking rather like Tobey Maquire of Pleasantville, The Cider House Rules, and Wonder Boys) to be a drug dealer and thief. (At first he doesn't get the job of bartender because he politely walks away from the owner's explicitly worded sexual request.)

            The end of the movie is, of course, not tragic but appropriately cleansing.

Pleasantville (1998, New Line Cinema, dir.Gary Ross) is a delicious satire about the values of David Halberstam’s 1950s, achieved by having two teenagers David and Jeffier (Tobey Maguire, who looks appropriately virile on the basketball court, and Reese Witherspoon) move in and out of a black-and-white sitcom (as if through a string theory dimensional warp). William H. Macey plays George Parker, who is determined to enforce the pre-Bettyr Friedan rules in order to keep everything “pleasant.”  Pleasantville looks like one of those places you see on a commercial model railroad layout, like Roadside America in Pa. 

The Cider House Rules (1999, Miramax, dir. Lasse Hallestrom, based on the book by John Irving) brings us the story of an appealing young man, Homer Wells (Tobey Maguire), raised in an orphanage and trained to become a doctor by Dr. Wilbur Larch (Michael Caine). He wants to leave his environment in rural Maine and see the world. Dr. Larch has been keeping a secret to protect him, the idea that he has a heart condition and is not fit to serve in the military. But maybe the secret is a lie.



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