The XX Factor

The Unbearable Awkwardness of Your Early Twenties

The Last Days of Disco is one of my favorite movies. It follows a group of recent college grads awkwardly copulating in New York in the waning days of a Studio 54-ish club. Disco was out of print on DVD until the Critereon re-released it this month. The Whit Stillman-written-and-directed film was such a cult classic that when I tried to buy it on Amazon a few years ago, the going rate for copies of the film hovered around $100. Today on Slate , Troy Patterson points out Stillman’s virtues as a social commentator and chronicler of “WASP decline .” The reason I love Disco, though , is because it is the piece of film that best illustrates the deliciously awkward post-collegiate years.

There has been a great deal of film made about the mortification that goes along with adolescence (see the ouvre of John Hughes). But there is a distinct lack of moviemaking (especially from the female perspective) that is about the misery involved in one’s early twenties. The main character in Disco , Alice Kinnon, is, as Troy describes her, “bright, impressionable, naive, virginal, faintly awkward, and, being played by Chloë Sevigny, alive with fluid movement and alarming prettiness.” Alice makes several embarrassing social missteps (one involves telling a potential lover that she thinks “Scrooge McDuck is sexy,” in order to seem appealing) and all of them seem much worse because she is trapped in a tightly knit social circle. When Alice comes down with an unfortunate social disease, all of her friends know, too-because her bitchy roommate Charlotte (Kate Beckinsale) tells everyone about it.

The characters in Disco are all groping around for their adult selves-trying on new personalities, jobs, and lovers-and falling down often on the way forward. The only other movies I can think of that get this life period right are Kicking and Screaming and The Graduate. Am I forgetting any fantastic examples?

Image is a screenshot of The Last Days of Disco.