Review: Thank God It’s Friday

The then-thriving disco label Casablanca Records’s studio showcase flick Thank God It’s Friday feels like a quarterly preview reel shown to stockholders.

Thank God It's Friday
Photo: Columbia Pictures

The then-thriving disco label Casablanca Records’s studio showcase flick Thank God It’s Friday feels like a quarterly preview reel shown to stockholders. It’s a K-Tel album as a sitcom pilot (think a preemptive Groovy Days with Jeff Goldblum’s oily club owner as the neo-Fonz), a maladroit Altman-lite patchwork about the disco scene that plays up everything crass and commodified about the exploding industry—in other words, everything explicitly for sale at popular prices—while sneakily soft-pedaling everything that would spook the clientele at the suburban strip mall discothèques across the country. Or, worse, openly mocks the scene as being nothing more than paradoxically overpriced cheap thrills, which would probably make for a shitty stockholders’ rallying cry were the shallow status quo not the prelude to a collective baptism to the power of “good disco,” here represented by Casablanca’s own Once Upon A Time Cinderella Donna Summer and her Oscar-winning “Last Dance.” (If Friday is a Nashville clone—albeit in one solitary location—then Summer is its own Barbara Harris insisting “It Don’t Worry Me” despite the self-parody swirling around her.) Ostensibly taking place somewhere in Los Angeles, but looking more like Omaha, Thank God It’s Friday takes you behind the synthetic velour rope of a tacky-trendy new disco, owned by Jeff Goldblum because, as he oozes, he had a premonition that disco was a trend just waiting to happen and he intended to milk it dry. Joining him in a mass quest to ask what disco can do for them, not what they can do for disco, is a panoply of invariably irritating people. There are a married couple approaching their seven-year itch and looking to inject a little spice into their relationship (even though the husband seeks nothing more potent than ground peppercorn); the rapacious Goldblum sets his new-night-new-lady sights on the wife. There is a transvestite who takes about eight hours in the men’s bathroom to electric shave his bust, making him the only gay in this disco (aside from Debra Winger’s AC/DC dance partner). About the only halfway likable character in the crowd is a leather-clad autodidact dancer (played by Chick Vennera with the same exhaustive Latino bluster as he gave in that terrible “hath not a Cuban eyes?” episode of The Golden Girls) who provides the film with its only reasonable approximation of (go figure!) actual dancing. Otherwise, the film’s tone can be gleaned from one telling scene in which a number of the film’s female characters are shown in the powder room (not to be confused with the “powder” room—this is a PG movie) handing each other tissues as they share a good cry. They’re not shedding tears over the petty bumps in their hedonistic roads. They’re not even crying because they know disco is dying. No, they’re crying out of guilt for actually having a hand in the murder of disco by agreeing to appear in Thank God It’s Friday.

 Cast: Donna Summer, Jeff Goldblum, The Commodores, Paul Jabara, Hilary Beane, John Frierich, Andrea Howard, DeWayne Jessie, Valerie Landsburg, Mark Lonow, Robin Menken, Terri Nunn, Chuck Sacci, Mews Small, Chick Vennera, Ray Vitte, Debra Winger  Director: Robert Klane  Screenwriter: Armyan Bernstein  Distributor: Columbia Pictures  Running Time: 89 min  Rating: NR  Year: 1978  Buy: Video, Soundtrack

Eric Henderson

Eric Henderson is the web content manager for WCCO-TV. His writing has also appeared in City Pages.

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