J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Club Life: New York Nightlife Circa 2008

One of Johnny D’s greatest accomplishments as a night club promoter will be drumming up business on Tuesday nights. Funny, those of us who went to school in Ohio might just remember Tuesday as a traditional going out night, but evidently Manhattan hipsters needed more convincing. Viewers get a sanitized behind-the-scenes peak into the ins-and-outs of night club promotion, based on the real life experiences of co-star-co-screenwriter Danny “A.” Abeckaser in Fabrizio Conte’s Club Life (trailer here), which opens today in New York.

Believe it or not, getting beautiful women to your club is a top priority for a veteran operator like Mark Cohen. If you comp enough models, the prospective sugar daddies and horn dogs will follow. It turns out “Johnny D,” as he will soon be known, has a talent for it. He could use the money too. The independent limo driver’s father has had a massive stroke and the family has no insurance.  

Starting with his soon-to-be ex-girlfriend and her hot friends and quickly graduating to bored junior models living in agency apartments, Johnny D brings a steady stream of investment banker bait to the club Cohen promotes. However, Johnny D (or is that D Train) grows tired of lining the pockets of the sleazy owner. With Cohen, he launches “Tuesday, Baby, Tuesday,” taking over a club on the dead night by guaranteeing a minimum dollar volume at the bar. Of course, it is only a matter of time before someone as ambitious as Johnny D clashes with someone as territorial as Cohen.

Frankly, Club Life should have been way more hedonistic than it turned out to be. For some reason, Conte is just as interested in Johnny D’s strained relationship with his judgmental mother as he is in the sausage making of the night club business. While it might imply Cohen’s boss is a bit of a shady character, organized crime plays no appreciable role in the film, which will probably strike seasoned New Yorkers as rather Pollyannaish.

Despite the risk of accentuating the negative, a little more gangsterism could have worked wonders for Club Land. After all, the best aspect of the film is the attitude delivered by Abeckaser as Cohen and Robert Davi as his demanding client. Listening to them sneer and jeer is a lot of fun. On the other hand, Tovah Feldshuhh is routinely great on stage, but she is a real wet blanket as the charmless Mother D. Still, Entourage’s Jerry Ferrara makes a believable enough hustler, but the film has him spinning his wheels in too many tractionless scenes.

There is enough New Yorkiness in Club Land to keep it watchable, but it is hard to shake the suspicion Conte, Abeckaser, and company have watered-down the real story, for someone’s benefit. No match for Last Days of Disco or 54 (theatrical or director’s cut) Club Land might eventually be worth of stream when people start getting nostalgic for the late-aughts club scene. It opens today (5/29) in New York, at the AMC Empire (and launches on iTunes).

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