In the San Fernando Valley in 1977, teenage busboy Eddie Adams (Mark Wahlberg) gets discovered by porn director Jack Horner (Burt Reynolds), who transforms him into adult-film sensation Dirk Diggler. Brought into a supportive circle of friends, including fellow actors Amber Waves (Julianne Moore), Rollergirl (Heather Graham) and Reed Rothchild (John C. Reilly), Dirk fulfills all his ambitions, but a toxic combination of drugs and egotism threatens to take him back down.
Boogie Nights is Paul Thomas Anderson’s opus on the porn industry but its a film that manages to be more than just that. Heavily inspired by Robert Altman’s ensemble dramas, Boogie Nights is a film that’s rich on characters, competently directed and superbly written. It’s also an enthralling period-piece. As someone who is a big fan of Paul Thomas Anderson, I love this film to bits and pieces.
Boogie Nights drew me with its stylish direction, but it becomes truly involving once the characters start talking and interacting and once the film got going I could not take my eyes off the screen. Paul Thomas Anderson is a great story-teller, and it’s this quality that sets his films apart as ingenious and original pieces of work. Boogie Nights is nothing less, it’s a film that has both great style and great substance. Stylistically, It’s does very well in capturing that typical 70’s look, it’s gorgeous to look at and packs some great visual panache.
The writing is impeccable and apart from great story-telling. The film is the typical rise and fall story we’ve seen various times before but Anderson has his own unique take on this seemingly cliched story and the consistency with the story is incredible. Anderson also manages to create strong and colorful characters that left a lasting impact on me, even if they had a minimal amount of screen-time. The acting goes a long way in making this happen and the film boasts an impressive ensemble cast led by a young Mark Wahlberg that also features the likes of: Julianne Moore, William H. Macy, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Don Cheadle, John C. Reilley, Heather Graham, Alfred Molina and Burt Reynolds. Everyone from this talented cast pulls their weight but ultimately I found Burt Reynolds and Julianne Moore’s characters the most compelling. As director, Jack Horner, Reynolds is wonderful to watch and offers a gravitating and nuanced comeback performance. While, Julianne Moore is magnificent as porn-star Amber Waves. This is one of the Julianne Moore’s best performances, in my opinion and her character serves as the emotional crux of the film and provides some of the film’s most heart-wrenching moments as well.
All in all, Boogie Nights is a sweeping morality tale about the rise and fall of a family. It’s like Goodfellas, only instead of being gangsters, the characters are involved in the porn industry. The film is powerful and poignant and serves as a provocative character study as well. It’s a marvelous film, one of Paul Thomas Anderson’s very best.