Movie Review: Boogie Nights -- The big man who got the porn industry rolling.
Written and Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson.
Starring Mark Wahlberg, Burt Reynolds, Julianne Moore, John C. Reilly, Don Cheadle, and Heather Graham.By Vladimir V. Zelevinsky
Everyone has one special thing - some people have a talent for singing, some for martial arts, some are born stereo salesmen. For Eddie Adams (Mark Wahlberg, formerly known as Marky Mark) it is, um, the size of his endowment. In every other way, Eddie is a total mediocrity - his kung fu moves don't quite have that Bruce Lee quality, and his singing is, to put it mildly, awful. But Eddie has ambition. He wants to succeed, to get out of the stifling suburbia of San Fernando Valley he grew up in, and to become something. So he uses his only special gift, and becomes something - a porno star. With the help of adult film director Jack Horner (Burt Reynolds, never better than here) and a new name, Dirk Diggler, he starts his rise to stardom.
His rise and subsequent fall form the main plot of Boogie Nights, a truly epic film, which is ostensibly a chronicle of adult movie industry, but touches a lot of themes and has several intertwining plot threads.
Jack Horner's team consists of himself, porno ingenue Rollergirl (Heather Graham, in a spot-on performance), who never removes her roller skates; actress Amber Waves (Julianne Moore of The Lost World), who functions as a surrogate mother to Eddie and Rollergirl; and other assorted actors, technicians, and the like. Mix them all, adding day-Glo sets a heaping dose of 70s fashion and music and what you get is a truly cool movie.
But Boogie Nights isn't content with an anthropological study of porn industry, but rather starts by showing how the porn industry is a lot like the more legitimate film industry, and how people start with idealism and naive ambitions, but in the end lose their integrity, optimism, and the talents that led them there.
Half-way through the movie, after the pivotal events at the 1980 New Year party, the tone changes. The medium of choice for pornography becomes videotapes rather than film; the business becomes faster, cruder, and more vicious, and so does Boogie Nights. Diggler's meteoric fall from grace is chronicled with even more savage humor than his rise. But it all feels a bit heavy-handed. The subtext of this section is less interesting (we're reminded that pornography is closely related to crime, but it's hardly an earth-shattering discovery), and the seams in the screenplay show.
The direction, however (Paul T. Anderson, who also wrote the screenplay, and remember this name, because you're bound to hear it in the future) is brilliant throughout the entire film. The shootout in a doughnut shop and the subsequent attempt to rob a drug dealer are filmed with as much verve as the best of Pulp Fiction.