Boogie Nights Review
1997, 155 minutes
Rated R for strong sex scenes with explicit dialogue, nudity, drug use, language and violence
Boogie Nights is an epic film about the adult film industry in the 1970s and 1980s that follows many different characters as they encounter ups and downs. It stars Mark Wahlberg, Julianne Moore, Burt Reynolds, John C. Reilly, Heather Graham, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, and Don Cheadle and is directed by Paul Thomas Anderson (Magnolia, Punch-Drunk Love, There Will Be Blood). The one word I have for this film is magical. Though this film does not have much deep meaning, it is superbly entertaining and surprisingly tight with incredible performances and Anderson’s trademark moving camera. With the butt-numbing running time and the amount of characters that inhabit the film, Anderson could have easily lost control of the film and had it go too many directions at once. But, alas, he doesn’t. The reason why this works is because he keeps the characters in the same area, but still develops each and makes each one’s personality unique and interesting. I was never bored and just reveled in the fact that a 26-year-old filmmaker made this as his second feature without formal training (he never went to film school).
Another reason why this film succeeds is because of the charismatic cast. I love movies with great casts and directors that take full advantage of their talents. Boogie Nights stars Mark Wahlberg in the performance that started his very successful career. He plays Dirk Diggler, a teenager who gets noticed by adult filmmaker Jack Horner (Burt Reynolds in his career-reviving, Oscar-nominated performance). Wahlberg brings a youthful energy and realistic spin to his character. I cannot think of a better way to start a career. Oscar-nominee Julianne Moore also gives a great performance as Amber Waves, a drug-addicted adult film actress who is a mother figure to the group of characters in the film. Heather Graham, John C. Reilly, and Philip Seymour Hoffman also add spice to the film.
The performances in this film give the film much of its energy. Each actor takes their character and gives them depth plus a little of the actor themself. Every one of these actors knows that they are in a great film and it seems as if they wanted to go the extra mile. I was amazed by their energy and was thrilled by them.
Anderson’s direction and screenplay are two other highlights. With Boogie Nights, he, as another reviewer has pointed out, captured the mood and feel of an era, just as Robert Altman did in Nashville. Anderson captures the boom of disco and porn and makes you feel as if you’re there. How he did it, I couldn’t tell you. But, I can speculate that the disco music, care-free attitudes of the characters, and lighting had a lot to do with it. With the script, as already mentioned, Anderson keeps everything moving and tight. The script has a polished feel with no rough edges unlike his follow-up film Magnolia. Also, as another review noticed, Anderson makes the film sensitive and has sympathy for his characters, which is a statement that I wholeheartedly agree with. This film could have been a lurid exploration of a seedy underbelly of America, but instead it is a very tasteful, while still slightly naughty, window into a bygone era.
Overall, Boogie Nights is one of the greatest films ever made and definitely one of Anderson’s best, if not the best. Entertaining, charming, and magical, it will truly entertain and surprise you. So, if you do see this film, please post a comment in the comments section about what you thought.
Watch with: Nashville and Magnolia