Late seventies. Disco is king, teenagers are long-haired and careless, and the sex industry is booming. Eddie Adams is in the heart of this era. At 17, he’s working in both a carwash and a cool nightclub. He’s obsessed with Bruce Lee and John “Saturday Night Fever” Travolta. He doesn’t go to school and he doesn’t plan to get a 9 to 5 job. The man’s got ambition. He’s aware that he’s gifted, that he has something that others only dream of: it’s between his legs, it’s 13 inch long and it rhymes with cock! Eddie would sure like to cash in on his impressive schlong, so he becomes a porn star. He enters the world of Jack Horner, a filmmaker who tries to bring some class to adult movies. He lives in a big mansion in which his crew, cast and friends spend a whole lot of time. The place’s always a party, packed with sex, drugs and disco.
Among the fine people that hang there is Amber Waves, an experienced porn star and Horner’s lady friend. She’s wonderfully played by Julianne Moore, who was nominated for an Oscar. Then there’s the awesome Heather Graham as Roller girl, a sexy teenager who never takes off her skates. Other cool characters include John C. Reilly as Reed Rothchild, a pseudo-macho actor; Don Cheadle as Buck, a black stud with style problems; William H. Macy as Kurt Longjohn, a depressed cinematographer; Luis Guzman as Maurice, a Puerto Rican would-be actor; and Philip Seymour Hoffman as Sky, a gay crew member.
As you can see, “Boogie Nights” features an impressive ensemble cast, and there’s not a supporting actor whose performance is less than impeccable. But the real stars are comeback kids Mark Wahlberg (former wigger rapper Marky Mark) and Burt Reynolds, who we all know from such 70s smash hits as “Smokey and the Bandit”. Wahlberg is perfect as the innocent and fun-loving Adams, who becomes Dirk Diggler, the biggest name in porn. His performance gets even stronger in the film’s darker last act, which take the characters in the 80s, as video takes away the exotic appeal of adult cinema to turn it into plain jerk-off material. Reynolds is surprisingly good as Jack Horner, a role that won him the best reviews of his career and an Oscar nomination.
The thing that makes the film so great, though, is Paul Thomas Anderson‘s writing and direction. The storytelling is original and witty, the characters are richly developed and the dialogue is sharp. Visually, the film is stunning. The art direction is way cool, and Anderson crafts every scene excitingly. He’s the hottest indie director since Tarantino, with whom he shares the influence of the great Martin Scorsese. The soundtrack is also fantastic, pretty much everything in the film is. You see that Anderson is in love with every aspect of it. “Boogie Nights” is an always gripping, 147 minute long epic that’s involving, hilarious, violent and amazingly well made. Like “Goodfellas” or “Pulp Fiction”, it plays on many levels and is great at all of them. It’s one of the best films of 1997.