Rental Unit: “The Last Days of Disco” 

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The final installment of Whit Stillman's informal yuppie trilogy, chronologically this 1998 movie takes place before “Barcelona” (1994), which might explain why the Criterion Collection decided to make it the second Stillman DVD release, after producing a version of his essential debut, “Metropolitan” (1990).

A sideways elegy for the disco era, “The Last Days of Disco” looks past the collective memory of outlandish clothing and choreographed dance moves to a group of young, Manhattan preppies vying to make successes of themselves by day and gain access to an exclusive, Studio 54-looking disco by night.

Navigating this treacherous but intoxicating realm is Alice (Chloe Sevigny) and Charlotte (Kate Beckinsale), backbiting editors at a publishing house, and some of their former college buddies, including the ingratiating advertising executive Jimmy (MacKenzie Astin) and the cocky, womanizing Des (Chris Eigeman), a manager at the club.

As usual, Stillman eschews plot in favor of his characters and their conversations. And as usual, though fresh-faced and recently embarked upon their lives, these individuals have an instinctive and endearing sense of decline made more appealing by the way they self-righteously and selfishly deal with it.

Call them terrible people, but not unpleasant. On the contrary, Stillman, a gentle satirist, takes great pains to create another set of yuppies who are likable even if occasionally ridiculed.
The only trouble is deciding which among them you enjoy most, and, similarly, where “Last Days,” which benefitted from the biggest budget and most star power of Stillman's work, ranks among them.

There is no question that fans eagerly await the next project from the still procrastinating filmmaker. As a shining contemporary example of the ever more rare comedy of manners — and an ever watchable one — “Last Days” will satisfy the craving for urban haute bourgeoisie, as Stillman's characters would have called themselves.

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