22 May 2005 | TOMASBBloodhound
A gutsy effort... and extremely well-made.
P.T. Anderson's Boogie Nights is basically a character study of porn industry participants between the years of 1977-1984. We see much of the film through the eyes of a young man who takes the industry by storm at the tender age of 17. We see his rise during the care-free innocence of the later 70s and we witness him bottom out in the early 80s. We are also introduced to several other performers, filmmakers, hangers on, and criminals. Cocaine seems to be the catalyst behind much of the action. This type of film might have been laughable if made by a director with less talent, but Anderson's unique style and skills make it a winner.
Mark Wahlberg plays our young stud who takes the name of "Dirk Diggler". He's apparently a high school dropout with an enormous penis who catches the attention of a porn director played by Burt Reynolds. Wahlberg's performance begins as properly understated, then seems to grow with the character. Reynolds hasn't been this good since Smokey and the Bandit. The rest of the cast reads like a "who's who" of the more respected actors of our day. Don Cheadle is outstanding as a young man who takes pride in his "acting", but really wants to open up a stereo store more than anything else. Julianne Moore is is also very good as the maternal figure of the troupe who has basically adopted the younger actors as her own children to replace her real son lost in a custody dispute. There is simply not enough space here to give credit to everyone who acted superbly in this film.
Anderson's skill with the camera is on display in numerous shots. Many have been used elsewhere, but he knows how to work them into his story. Many of the scenes take place in crowded rooms or at parties where all kinds of interesting things are going on. His technique often takes us from one room to another, then perhaps outside so we don't miss a thing. The use of soundtrack is perhaps the best of any film I've ever seen. In fact, it IS the best. With so many great songs of the period at his disposal, he works two discs worth into the story. Nothing seems excessive or out of place.
If one fault can be found with this film, then I would have to say it would be too much violence in the last half hour. Any industry that deals in sex and drugs to that extent is bound to encounter violence in some circles, but Boogie Nights over does it. I counted no less than five extremely bloody scenes. In one, a VERY young woman overdoses on coke and breaks a blood vessel in her nose. There are several gunshot victims. But the most over-the-top scene would have to be the one where Heather Graham stomps on the head of a young man with her roller skates. The manner in which she comes in contact with him is contrived to the point of hysteria, then the scene ends in such a brutal assault that you'll hardly be able to control your skepticism. The fact that the consequences of the assault are not even revealed to the audience (at least not in any version of the film I've seen) makes you wonder why Anderson thought to include it at all. It was just a means for the young woman to get some revenge on a guy who made fun of her way back in high school. Nothing more.
The film lacks any scene which inspires any true sexual feeling from anyone I've ever talked to. This was indeed intended. The sex in the film is all about business, though Graham's brief nude scene was well appreciated. The film is also lacking in any kind of judgment or moral lesson. We are merely introduced to these characters, then we see what happens to them. Despite a near documentary point of view, the film never bogs down or fails to keep one's interest. The film didn't make that much money, but it has earned the distinction of being one of the better films made in the 1990s. A reputation well-deserved.
9 of 10 stars from The Hound.