Thank God It's Friday (1978) / Comedy-Musical
MPAA Rated: PG for language, sexuality and drug use
Running Time: 89 min.
Cast: Jeff Goldblum, Debra Winger, Terri Nunn, Ray Vitte, Donna Summer, The Commodores, DeWayne Jessie, Chick Vennera, Valerie Landsburg, Mark Lonow, Andrea Howard, Marya Small, Chuck Sacci, John Friedrich, Hilary Beane, Paul Jabara, Robin Menken,
Director: Robert Klane
Screenplay: Armyan Bernstein
As bad as Thank God It's Friday may be as a movie, it is still time capsule material, perhaps one of the films that best displayed the attraction of one of the biggest fads of the 1970s, the discotheque. It's a place where people came to forget their worries, leaving their old selves at the door, often donning costumes and dancing the night away with a room full of strangers. At the time of its release, disco was right at its peak, ultimately collapsing in the next year when the glut of the music could no longer sustain itself, as people became over-saturated with the sound, turning to new forms of music like punk, new wave, heavy metal and hip hop. However, in 1978, disco still reigned supreme, and it was inevitable, especially given the popularity of Saturday Night Fever, that Hollywood would exploit the scene while the scene was still happening.
Thank God It's Friday is an ensemble piece, with a varied cast of characters whose only connection is that they all chose one particular disco on one particular Friday. It's the night that the Commodores, the group with the smash hits "Easy" and "Brick House", would make their appearance. Meanwhile, many people would come to the scene, some new, some longtime regulars, some big-shots, and some just your average Joes. Whether they go to the disco to meet a mate, get high, blow off steam, or dance the night away, the disco was the happening place to be, thumping with wall to wall hedonism, glitz and glamour.
There are two ways to assess Thank God It's Friday in terms of critique. One is as a movie, and the other is as a by-product of American culture. Since I am one that deals mostly with the quality of movies, I shall stick primarily to the former, but I would be remiss if I didn't talk about many of the tangential qualities that makes such a film a cult favorite, despite its awfulness.
As a movie, TGIF is a mess. There's no real coherent storyline, and even with so many smaller stories, there really isn't any significance one can extract from any of those either. The movie, just like the music, is full of showy displays that say one should just got with the flow and feel good, but it's all style and almost no substance at all. The characters are completely uninteresting, and all of their concerns are petty and self-centered.
However, on the flip side of the same coin, this perfectly encapsulates the disco experience precisely. Everyone truly was self-centered and dealing with petty issues. Everything was as shallow as depicted. It's all gloss, sexuality, undulating rhythms, and living for the moment. After all of the turmoil of the 1960s and the Vietnam era, nuclear proliferation, and all of the horrible news of the 1970s, the discotheque was the place to go to completely lose yourself and listen to dreamlike music espousing banal lyrics just telling everyone to dance and dance and dance. Disco was inherently vapid, and so should be the movie that portrays it.
That said, other than 1970s revivalists or disco freaks, there are a few reasons one might want to check out the movie, if only for some amusement. Part of the ensemble contains future stars Jeff Goldblum (Jurassic Park, Nine Months) and Debra Winger (Radio, Sometimes in April). Terri Nunn, the future lead singer of the popular 80s group Berlin ("Take My Breath Away", "No More Words") also had a prominent role as Jeannie, an underage girl looking to sneak in to win a contest to buy KISS tickets. Donna Summer also would make her one and only movie appearance, and she belts out her smash, "Last Dance". Paul Jabara, Summer's producer and writer of that song also had a role as Carl. The Commodores sing (well, lip-synch) their funk hit "Too Hot ta Stop".
In short, do NOT watch Thank God It's Friday because you are interested in a good movie. Watch it because you saw it when it was released and want to relive a memory. Watch it because you are nostalgic for Donna Summer or the disco era. Watch it because you are unfamiliar with the disco scene and are curious. Watch it only to see something else besides the thinly defined characters and their boring lifestyles. No matter what the reason you choose to watch this boring, vapid drivel, one thing is certain: all who watch Thank God It's Friday will end the movie with the same exact thought -- "Thank God It's Over".
©2005 Vince Leo