Boogie Nights

Boogie Nights (1997)
New Line Home Entertainment
Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Burt Reynolds, Julianne Moore
Extras: Commentary track, Deleted Scenes, Music Video, Biographies,

"Boogie Nights" was 1997’s sleeper hit, a movie that caught the industry by surprise and earned one of its stars, Burt Reynolds, an Academy Award nomination. It is director Paul Thomas Anderson’s second feature movie, and as such displays an impressive maturity. Highly touted by critics and audiences, it swept the theaters last year and caused a buzz in throughout the film industry, making Anderson one of Hollywood’s hottest new directors.

"Boogie Nights" tells the story of seventeen-year-old Eddie Adams (Mark Wahlberg) whose dream it is to become a famous porn star. One night during his work shift as a dishwasher in a nightclub, he catches the eye of adult film director Jack Horner (Burt Reynolds). Jack, an icon in the adult movie industry, is on the lookout for fresh blood and Eddie is just the stud he needs. He makes the lad an offer and Eddie happily agrees. A few days later, they shoot their first film together; Eddie displays an impressive professionalism on the job and even manages to give Amber Waves (Julianne Moore), the queen of porn, carnal pleasures with his "gifted" body during the film’s shoot. He changes his name to "Dirk Diggler," and becomes the industry’s shooting star, taking porn movies to new heights. Yet even as he raises the adult film industry, he sinks lower and lower. Introduced to other people’s vices, like booze and cocaine, Dirk soon becomes completely addicted to the drugs. He loses control over himself, and falls out hard with his mentor Jack. They go their separate ways and Dirk’s decline into the gutters of prostitution and crime is imminent.

The acting in the movie is superb and to the point. Burt Reynold’s focused, yet laid-back portrayal of the "family father" Jack Horner is worth special mention, as it is one of the best performances of his career. The cast is shored up by many lesser-known actors, who nevertheless throw in excellent and refreshing performances. While it’s a very good movie overall, "Boogie Nights" has its flaws. The most obvious one is its considerable length of 155 minutes. While it starts well, the movie loses focus somewhere down the line, and begins truly dragging in its last third. Better editing would probably have helped tightening the story there, keeping the audience’s attention all the way, creating a more cohesive film. The second major flaw for my taste – and I know many people will disagree with me on this – is Julianne Moore as porn queen Amber Waves. While there is nothing wrong with her acting, she simply does not have the physical attributes it takes to become the influential and adored porn actress she portrays in this movie. Apart from those weaknesses, however, "Boogie Nights" gives us a voyeuristic glimpse into the world of the porn industry of the seventies. It perfectly displays the broken personalities of this industry, addicted to sex, drugs, and alcohol, completely meshed into their own world. Every attempt to escape this "family" eventually results in disappointment, embarrassment, and the person’s suicide or return to porn movies.

The movie comes as a "Platinum Series" disc from New Line Home Video and contains some interesting supplemental materials. The movie itself is presented in its theatrical <$PS,widescreen> aspect ratio in a very crisp transfer. The image is without noise or artifacts, with sharp edges and stable, and naturally rendered colors. Also contained on the disc are nine deleted scenes from the movie and Michael Penn’s music video "Try". The disc is rounded up with extensive cast and crew biographies that even go as far as include fictional bios of the personae portrayed in the movie.

One of the most striking features of the movie, next to its lush production design and the strong, unmistakable, visual, seventies feel, is Michael Penn’s contemporary music. Partly consisting of original bits and pieces, the movie also utilizes well-known disco, soul and funk tunes from the era to help stylize the images and settings. The disc’s <$DD,Dolby Digital> mix is dynamic, but the music is somewhat too front-loaded and loud in certain passages, overpowering the dialogue at times. "Boogie Nights" is fully dubbed in English and French and also comes with English captions, as well as French and Spanish subtitles. The disc contains a <$commentary,commentary track> with director Paul Thomas Anderson, which is interesting, but this track contains the same aural deficiency as the original soundtrack. It is slightly erratic and a little dynamic compression of the track would have helped to keep the level balanced and the distortion at bay.

"Boogie Nights" is a faithfully unfaithful look at the adult movie industry from two different viewpoints – one humorous and one pensive. It’s a sizzling exploration of the people involved in this business and the people who like to rub shoulders with those who are in hope of some onscreen appearance. It is an entertaining movie that is highly recommended for everyone interested in the genre and a look behind the scenes, through the eyes of some fictional characters based on real porn industry icons.