A quintessentially ’90s movie about the ’80s

Remember when Whit Stillman used to make movies? Back in the ’90s, he made brainy, cutting comedies like Metropolitan and Barcelona, but then retired (or disappeared into writer’s block). The Last Days of Disco — his last, best film (available on DVD 8/25) —tells how a Studio-54–like empire fell and yuppies rose from a semi-persecuted minority to New York’s ruling class.

Out on the dance floor, you catch glimpses of the crowd you expect — the costumed fabulous, the gays, the naked and the glitter-dusted. But Stillman is more interested in the tense publishing assistants, earnest lawyers and insecure ad execs, who pass the velvet rope despite prim cocktail dresses and business suits—the ones who bust moves like elderly wedding guests and mostly monopolize the couches. Six recent college graduates—including Chloë Sevigny, Kate Beckinsale and master-sarcastic Chris Eigeman—banter dryly about sexual politics, Shakespeare or Scrooge McDuck, exposing neuroses and fascinating fragilities. The new Criterion release boasts a behind-the-scenes featurette, commentary with the actors and director and a high-definition digital transfer that has Manhattan gleaming and might have you, too, sighing for a not-so-distant past.

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A quintessentially ’90s movie about the ’80s