Boogie Nights

on October 10, 1997 by Shlomo Schwartzberg
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A lengthy look at the world of pornographic filmmakers, circa the late '70s and '80s, "Boogie Nights" is a well-crafted, well-acted entertainment but one that doesn't dig too deep into its subject. Seen mostly through the eyes of Eddie Adams ("Traveller's" Mark Wahlberg), a naive, aimless California youth who lucks into a new career as a porn star, "Boogie Nights" covers a trajectory that could be called The Rise and Fall of a Porn Star. At the outset, Eddie, who's renamed himself Dirk Diggler, is riding high, embraced by a happy, oblivious family of outsiders, including amiable Jack Horner (Burt Reynolds), a director with delusions of grandeur; his sweet wife, actress Amber Waves ("The Lost World: Jurassic Park's" Julianne Moore); Buck ("Devil in a Blue Dress'" Don Cheadle), an actor who really wants to own a stereo store; Rollergirl ("Swingers'" Heather Graham), who takes off everything but her skates; and Little Bill ("Fargo's" William H. Macy), a behind-the-scenes organizer who's always catching his wife in compromising positions.
Their shenanigans are bracketed by the awful but catchy disco music and horrendous fashions of the time, and "Boogie Nights" doesn't delve much deeper than that. It too neatly divides the "innocent" '70s from the "bad" '80s, with everything falling apart for the film's mainly superficial characters. AIDS is not mentioned and, although video is referred to as "the wave of the future," its impetus in bringing porn out of disreputable theatres into the average American's home, and making it more popular than ever, is flagrantly ignored.
Paul Thomas Anderson ("Hard 8") is a very talented filmmaker, effectively going in a blink of the eye from comedy to Tarantino-inspired violence, but he doesn't seem to have a brain in his head. "Boogie Nights" could have been a filmic version of Terry Southern's brilliant satirical porn novel "Candy," but the film, enjoyable as it is, says nothing about America at all. Like most porn, it's as superficial as they come. Starring Mark Wahlberg, Julianne Moore and Burt Reynolds. Directed and written by Paul Thomas Anderson. Produced by Lloyd Levin, John Lyons, Paul Thomas Anderson, Joanne Sellar and Daniel Lupi. A New Line release. Comedy/drama. Rated R for strong sex scenes with explicit dialogue, nudity, drug use, language and violence. Running time: 150 min.
Tags: sex, pornography, period, filmmaking, nudity, ensemble, drugs, rise and fall, sexuality, Mark Wahlberg, John C. Reilly, Heather Graham, Julianne Moore, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Burt Reynolds, Don Cheadle, Ricky Jay, William H. Macy, Alfred Molina, Paul Thomas Anderson
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