by Laura Kyle
PT Anderson just can’t seem to make a boring, forgettable character – even his most minor ones surely have whole histories, whole other movies just about themselves, stored away in his brain. And Boogie Nights, set in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s (you only have to sample the killer soundtrack to figure that out), is no exception; it’s a film riddled with interesting people: mostly flawed head cases and losers you won’t necessarily love, but you will not be able to look away.In a few hours, Mark Wahlberg shed his “Marky Mark” persona and established himself as a real actor, in Boogie Nights. He plays Eddie, a soft-spoken, polite 17-yr-old who spends his weeks working at a nightclub, as opposed to attending high school. Eddie wasn’t blessed with a big brain, unless his brain slid down to his crotch region… ahem. But everybody has “one special thing” he says, and his “thing” is indeed special. He’s good at sex and he knows it.
"Raises the bar for dildos everywhere (and writing, acting, directing too)."
Eddie is discovered by famed pornographer Jack Horner (Burt Reynolds), and the teenager’s dreams of porn stardom soon become a reality. All good transformations come with a name change, and in Eddie’s case, he chooses the name Dirk Diggler. Horner and Dirk band together to make respectable films out of porn movies; Horner wants to keep the audience in their seats after that moment of self-gratification. His dream is to keep the creative juices flowing, as well as the, err, physical ones, and he's under the impression that dream is coming true through the entertainment industry’s new golden boy, Dirk.
Julianne Moore plays Jack’s lady friend, a porn actress strung out on coke, who takes Dirk’s onscreen virginity and also eagerly mothers him, in lieu of her separation from her own son. Phillip Seymour Hoffman gives, well, I don’t know how else to say it… one of the most convincing performances of a gay character that I’ve ever seen. John C. Reilly plays another “actor” who co-stars with Dirk in a series of films that Horner calls his best work, but to the average moviegoer, would come across as bad "Starsky and Hutch" episodes. Don Cheadle, Heather Graham, and William H. Macy all do their part as well– everyone turns in remarkable performances, there’s not a single misstep.
The boisterously naughty, yet naive first half dramatically gives way to a delirious climax – all the while, the story is wrapped in an unflinching irony. Dirk’s charming sweetness and sex appeal begins to rub off, and so does the happier disposition of Boogie Nights.
Anderson tops off his classic film’s sexually explicit run with a, let’s just say, well crafted ending. Male Genitalia (however inauthentic) is to Boogie Nights as The Secret is to an M Night Shyamalan film.What is quite amazing about Anderson, is the success of his film relies on the audience caring about his characters, characters who are not heroes; some are quite stagnant even, making the same mistakes over and over again, and others are just plain stupid. But they are real, and therein lies the genius of Boogie Nights.
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originally posted: 03/07/05 18:02:46