Rating: 6.4/10 - Good
Director: Paul Thomas Anderson. Screenplay: Paul Thomas Anderson. Producers: Paul Thomas Anderson, Lloyd Levin, John Lyons and Joanne Sellar. Executive Producer: Lawrence Gordon. Cinematographer: Robert Elswit. Score: Michael Penn. Editor: Dylan Tichenor. Studio: New Line Cinema. Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Burt Reynolds, Julianne Moore, John C. Reilly, Heather Graham, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Don Cheadle and William H. Macy. Running Time: 155 Minutes. Age Restriction: 18SNLV.
Set in the San Fernando Valley area in 1977, Boogie Nights tells the story of Eddie Adams (Mark Wahlberg), a high school dropout who works as a mechanic at a car garage by day and as a dishwasher at a nightclub by night. The nightclub he works in is owned by Maurice Rodriguez (Luis Guzman) who just happens to be friends with porn film director Jack Horner (Burt Reynolds) and his pornstar wife, Amber Waves (Julianne Moore). While doing his usual rounds collecting the dishes from the tables at the club, Eddie catches Jack's attention who then invites him to become an actor in one of his films. Eddie, who happens to be rather well-endowed, sees this as an opportunity to do something worthwhile with his life and so accepts Jack's offer. He then descends into a world of sex, drugs and videotape that changes him forever.
Although Eddie's story is the main focus of the film, like of most Paul Thomas Anderson's (PTA) films, Boogie Nights features a diverse ensemble cast of characters, each with their own stories and personal motives helping to drive the narrative forward. First there's the story of Rollergirl (Heather Graham), a young porn actress who always wears rollerskates and is a high school dropout just like Eddie. But unlike Eddie, she seems to have become involved in the porn industry simply because she enjoys having sex rather than having some other lofty ambition to fulfil. Only towards the end is it revealed what she's really after. There's also the tragic character Little Bill (William H. Macy) who works as an assistant director for Jack Horner and is married to a blonde porn actress played by Nina Hartley. Little Bill's marriage seems to be quite fine, save for the fact that his wife thinks nothing of cheating on him by having sex with other men outside of work, and sometimes in public. As if she doesn't get enough sex already as a pornstar! Obviously Bill is not too pleased about his wife's extra-marital activities and we get to watch him slowly become a broken man who feels he has nothing more to live for. Amber Waves on the other hand, wants nothing more than to regain custody of her only son. Problem is, she is a cocaine addict, has a criminal record and has sex with other men in front of a camera for a living, not exactly the kind of CV that the courts look favourably upon when deciding who should have custody. Nevertheless she keeps trying and you can't help but feel for her struggle despite her all too obvious flaws.
Another of Jack Horner's actors in this ensemble is Buck Swope (Don Cheadle), who moonlights during the day (would that be sunlights?) as a stereo equipment salesman and has dreams of opening his own stereo equipment store if only he had enough money. His desperation to fulfill his dream no matter what leads him into a bit of a moral quandry when he finds himself in a situation to make a quick and easy buck and he has to do the right thing. But will he?
Finally there's Mr. Jack Horner himself, the center of this porn universe. He sees himself as sort of auteur amongst porn director's and prides himself in making porn film's that actually have a story to tell other than just featuring scene after scene of random people having sex for no apparent reason. His world is turned upside down when his financial backer is arrested for child pornography and he has to start looking for a new financier who shares his artistic vision for his film's. Unfortunately for him, that doesn't quite work out.
When you put together the stories of all these major characters, as well as a similarly big compliment of supporting characters, you get a compelling film about the behind scenes lives of the ordinary people living extraordinary lives as big and small shots in the porn industry. This is a hugely ambitious film and it pays off nicely in the end when all the pieces of the puzzle come together. The main problem is that it is way too long. Yes the story keeps moving along nicely but by the end you are left feeling exhausted and rather relieved that it is finally over. Other than that this makes for a fairly good morality tale with an epic The Godfather-esque feel to it.
Verdict: An entertaining behind the scenes look into the 1970's porn industry.
Boogie Nights is available now on DVD and Blu-ray.