Boogie Nights
Rating -

Drama (US); 1997; Rated R; 152 Minutes

Mark Wahlberg: Eddie Adams/Dirk Diggler
Burt Reynolds: Jack Horner
Don Cheadle: Buck Swope
Heather Graham: Rollergirl
Luis Guzmán: Maurice T. Rodriguez
William H. Macy: Little Bill
Julianne Moore: Amber Waves
Nicole Parker: Becky Barnett

Produced by Paul Thomas Anderson, Michael De Luca, Lawrence Gordon, Lynn Harris, Lloyd Levin, Daniel Lupi, John Lyons, Michael Phillips Jr. and Joanne Sellar; Directed and screenwritten by Paul Thomas Anderson

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Written by DAVID KEYES

Paul Thomas Anderson’s Boogie Nights is a revealing, raunchy, and rousing story of the porn industry, so creatively directed and acted that it is unlike anything we will ever see. It exists between the line of the party and porn genres, ever so often jumping back and forth until it ties them in together with sprawling craftsmanship. What exists is something more than just a movie; it is, more or less, an incredible experience. I doubt I will ever forget it.

The artistry Anderson represents here is so unbelievably tasteful that I imagine it’s like performing brain surgery. With a movie based on the porn industry, you’d expect it to be trashy, cheap, and pathetically tawdry. But it’s not: instead, the picture contains a perfection of tastes and camera movements, to where we aren’t just watching people exposing themselves completely in front of the camera. We are watching their lives unfold in front of us, as they tumble downhill just as their careers and professions do.

The film stars Mark Wahlberg as Eddie Adams, who, as the movie opens, is waiting on tables at a bar. Across the room, he sees world-known Jack Horner, the man behind porn popularity. Jack notices him, too, and there’s an instant increase of friction between them. As Adams exits to the kitchen, Horner follows him, and once they meet, Jack makes Eddie an offer he’s not about to refuse. "I have a feeling," Jack says, "that there’s something incredible in those jeans just waiting to get out."

Soon, Eddie is enflamed with urges to accept the offer, but since he’s still living at home, what will his mother think? Later on, after she kicks him out of the house, Eddie accepts the offer, and is soon deeply involved in Jack’s vision to create the ultimate porn movie. He sees the audience going there not just for the sex, but for the story as well. He sees them becoming absorbed in it; as if it were one of the best movies they’d ever lay eyes on. His vision is complete with a backdrop of intriguing characters, such as the teeny bopper Rollergirl (Heather Graham), and the psychologically crippled Amber Waves (Julianne Moore).

The making of this famous porn film takes place at the peak of the genre--the late 1970s, which is also the apparent time when the industry brings out its finest actors. The men and women who are involved in the porn itself are what makes Boogie Nights such an appealing film; these are some really unique characters, each concepted in realistic ways as the script brings them to us. Most of the people are real attention-getters, and the one I feel deserves the full span of our attention is Little Bill, played by William H. Macy. His wife is the porn star, but he doesn’t like it--every time he turns his back, she’s in bed with another man. In this situation, you’d expect a wife to stop the sex as soon as her husband walks in the door. She looks on at her husband, tells him to "close the door," and continues her business. Eventually, Bill gets somewhat tired of this profession, and takes a bullet to his wife while she’s in bed with yet another man.

Julianne Moore, literally speaking, is an Oscar contender here. Her role as the surrogate mother of the group is an intensely disturbing one. I say ‘disturbing’ because, after all, why would you want to be in porn films when you’re fighting a custody battle for your child?

Everyone has their own, disturbing situations, and all of them make you feel sorry for the characters in the movie which the situations relate to. Just as they have problems, they have special, observant qualities, and it isn’t until the last seen when we’re exposed to Eddie’s special quality—the reason why he (should I say Dirk Diggler?) was so popular in the porn industry.

That scene, I’m afraid, you will have to see for yourself to understand what I’m talking about. I don’t want to give anything away, but let’s just say that it almost got the movie an ‘NC-17’ rating.

Judge for yourself...that is, if you can take the heat.

© 1998, David Keyes, Please e-mail the author here if the above review contains any spelling or grammar mistakes.
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