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Mar 8, 2008

My Old Movie Reviews #1- Boogie Nights

First published February 1998 on Festivale Online, a now extinct web site.

Title: Boogie Nights (1997)
Written, produced and directed by: Paul Thomas Anderson
The Players: Mark Wahlberg - Eddie/Dirk Diggler
Burt Reynolds - Jack Horner
Julianne Moore - Amber Waves
Don Cheadle - Buck
William G. Macy - Little Bill
Heather Graham - Rollergirl
John C. Reilly - Reed Rothchild

Anyone who knows me knows that I'd have to see a movie about the porno industry in the 1970s and early 1980s. It's a given. The fact that it is a mind-blowingly good film with sharp, savvy characterisations, extremely sexy scenes, moments that out-Tarantino Quentin and a terrific last scene come as a bonus.

It's 1977. Eddie Adams is a 17 year old kid from Torrance, California who has one asset. A thirteen inch asset. He's working as a bus boy in a disco in Reseda when he meets an idealistic porno film-maker Jack Horner, his wife Amber Waves and Rollergirl, a porn actress who never takes off her roller skates under any circumstances.

Eddie is not bright, he's got no taste at all and he's full of himself. Soon, he is transformed into Dirk Diggler, porno superstar/stud and the hubris sets in.

Writer/Director Paul Thomas Anderson has managed to get the 1970s/80s period feel perfectly. From the first scene in the Hot Traxx disco, we're drawn into the past. Anderson uses long, perfectly executed tracking shots to give the audience the feeling of being immersed into the discos and parties. We're mingling with the crowd.

Mark Wahlberg's Eddie/Dirk is great. He starts out as a hurt kid and goes through the cocaine junkie hustler decline and out the other side without a false note.

Reynolds' Horner is fantastic. Ten minutes into the film I forgot that he was Burt Reynolds. For an actor with such a high profile, that's quite an accomplishment. (1997 was the year for actors to come back in from the wilderness. Reynolds, Peter Fonda and Robert Forster being the three that immediately come to mind.) Horner is genial, sensitive and although he has inflated ideas about the merit of his work, he genuinely believes that he's making quality films and he has the ability to pass that belief on to those he's working with.

Julianne Moore is both sexy and maternal as Amber Waves. Her first sex scene with Dirk is as hot as anything I've seen in a mainstream movie in a long time. Not too much is shown, but it's in the faces of both actors and the sometimes amusing reaction shots of the film crew.

Anderson does something interesting with this film. He doesn't judge his characters and he portrays the group as a family. Obviously, it's not a traditional family but these characters are unable to function as themselves within the constraints of mainstream society. Every interaction they have with the outside world leads them to a kick in the guts. But they look after one another and in the most important ways, form a family.

I wouldn't recommend this film for everyone. People with a lot of concerns about erotica/porn and the recent history of both won't like this flick. But if you want to catch on to one of the best new directors in the business early in his career, check it out. Anderson's the man to watch at the moment.

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