John Travolta received his first Oscar nomination for portraying Tony Manero in Saturday Night Fever.
Here is a film and a performance that I certainly sort of watched many times, but it is funny because this seems to be the first time I really honestly watched it, and perhaps the first time I watched the R rated version which is rather different. I never thought overly highly of it when I barely watched it but I finally really saw it and it really is something. I felt somewhat the same way about Travolta's performance, I never really though all that much about it my semi watching, but this time I finally saw what his performance really is.
This is quite clearly a true star making performance from John Travolta, now that I really watched it I had no trouble knowing why he became a star after this film. He really has all the proper charisma, and energy to make this a star performance. He is instantly watchable as soon as he struts down that sidewalk in the opening film. Travolta performance though really is even more than that which could have already been enough, but he actually creates a rather interesting and deep character with Tony, than you might expect. He makes Tony a fairly likable if sometimes slow Italian kid from New York City. Travolta is always believable and absolutely authentic throughout the film. I think he did a good job by keeping Tony realistic, but adding a right amount of humor along with it. Such as I making Tony's sometimes dimwitted nature amusing without seeming odd or incorrect, even when the thing he most complains about being hit by his father is that he touched his hair.
He shows something very interesting about this working class young man. He is a guy who is not exactly not confidant, but still rather simple in his life. He is never all that imposing, being very calm and grateful for even a small raise at his hardware store job. His life usually is that of just a simply guy never that imposing. He does though try to model himself into to something else always thinking of looks of other people, and trying to match them. His dreams and wants are well shown but carefully shown by Travolta. He shows that he clearly has a good amount of ambition, but that he sort of keeps it to himself except for when he is on the dance floor. I really like how he becomes not another person but one that seems to be bigger than himself. He shows the right confidence and strength on the dance floor. Travolta really is strong because he shows that this is part of Manero's expression and his chance to really be noticed.
These scenes are great but perhaps are the strongest in which Tony has to deal with his every day relationships, with his friends, his girl friends, and his family. First his family, as I said Travolta fits perfectly in as the authentic family, but he powerfully shows that he feels somewhat slighted by his family for their sometimes lack of affection, and their fairly lowly view of him. He really is especially great when he tells off his mother saying that all her children at bad basically, then though his sudden change in sadness since he does love his mother, and did not want to hurt her is really honestly portrayed, and pretty powerful.
He also is equally strong in his moments involving his relationships with his two love interests. He again always conveys the right emotions in his frustrations due to expectations of others, and that he really wants to do the more honest thing than the popular thing with first Annette. I really though he played spot on first trying to love her, than being frustrated by her sexual demands of him and sometimes her treatment of her. He shows that Tony is not always right, but really is a confused young man who tries to do what he can but that even he can be sometimes cruel, such as Travolta, is almost chillingly cold, when he shows Tony's disgust about Annette after she had been dated raped by his friends. Travolta though shows that Tony is a decent if not good guy but even a descent guy can sometimes can sometimes be cruel if pushed into the circumstances.
Travolta is equally good in Tony's relationship with Stephanie, who he clearly loves, but is too rough with and he himself tries to force himself on her. Again he does not make himself a bad person, but just a normal man, these scenes could have been portrayed all wrong but Travolta always handles them the right way. Finally Travolta is simply excellent in the final scenes where he grieves of his dead friend he feels somewhat responsible for, and tires to make up his behavior with Stephanie. Travolta ends his performance just about perfectly in his final scene, in showing how Tony has changed and honestly wants to make up for his wrongs, and his final apology is just the perfect ending to this very strong performance.