Movie Review By Heather Clisby
"Boogie Nights" is a slice of American history not found in the books. Covering 1977 to 1984, the porn industry is illustrated during that tacky but lovable period when disco was king, Cheryl Tiegs was queen and hairstyles were . . . well, really, really bad.
The film is an accurate portrait of a coke-infested, smut-ridden, pre-HIV Los Angeles, or The Valley, to be specific. Although "Boogie Nights" is recent history, the writer, producer and director, Paul Thomas Anderson, was, amazingly enough, still doing the playground thing at recess during this wacky period.
Bigger than life, front and center, is Eddie Adams, a well-endowed, naive teenager who firmly believes that everyone has a gift and is obligated to share it selflessly with others. In a remarkable performance, Mark Wahlberg portrays Eddie with a sexy and earnest vulnerability; even when Eddie becomes new and improved as the industry's biggest star, Dirk Diggler, the fragility comes through.
For the record, I must say that every role Burt Reynolds ever played has been leading up to the part of Jack Horner, a delusional "adult filmmaker" who truly wants to make the "Citizen Kane" of pornography and sees Dirk as his muse. Early in the film, he ponders the average masturbating theater-goer: "How do you keep them in the theater after they've come?"
With a talented and devoted supporting cast, "Boogie Nights" is really an indirect family portrait whose members - for various reasons - have shunned normal lives; they simply view porn as a profession and an easy way to feel loved. With Jack Horner as the patriarch, Dirk comes to find a mother figure in Amber Waves, played with gentle sadness by Julienne Moore. In a bizarre, incestuous way, Rollergirl, played by Heather Graham, becomes his sister and fellow porn stud, Reed Rothchild, played by John C. Reilly, acts as Dirk's faithful brother. All this plus the bonus of William H. Macy, as Little Bill, the one character who actually sees the weirdness and can take no more.
This film portrays a world that is so shallow, it's actually thought-provoking and often, terribly funny. It even manages to take a strong swing against child pornography.
Much like "The Crying Game", there is a scene that will stun folks who aren't sure about what they've witnessed. Truth is, "Boogie Nights" doesn't need it. This film stayed with me for days, pondering the idea that even too much of a shocking thing is never enough.
© 1997 - Heather Clisby - Air Date: 10/15/97
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