Mark Wahlberg
Julianne Moore
Burt Reynolds
Heather Graham
William H. Macy
John C. Reilly
Don Cheadle
Philip Seymour Hoffman

Paul Thomas Anderson



Time: 152 mins.
Rating: R
Genre: Drama

Academy Award nominations for Best Supporting Actor (Reynolds), Best Supporting Actress (Moore) and Best Original Screenplay.

I heard a lot of great things about BOOGIE NIGHTS and was looking forward to loving this movie. Unfortunately, it was trying to be the PULP FICTION of the porno industry. I understand what Anderson was going for – trying to bring out the humor and innocence of the 70's, interweaving the lives of the various players in the adult film world – but it ultimately doesn't work. It never captures the souls of its characters. BOOGIE NIGHTS fills the screen with beautiful people that have nothing to do and nowhere to grow.

The main character was supposed to be Mark Wahlberg's Dirk Diggler, a young, extremely well-endowed young man who uses his "gift" to make the world a better place through his adult films. He's brought into the business by Burt Reynold's character, Jack Horner, a director whose dream is to direct porno films that have a plot and meaning. Burt was so good, I actually wish the film was about him. I understand he initially tried to disassociate himself from the movie (I guess he thought it would be total trash, instead of being so critically acclaimed), but he had no need. His portrayal is honest and endearing. He really made me believe that his character was just trying to make the best movies he could. While the film focuses on this aspect, it's actually quite interesting and enjoyable. However, once Burt leaves the scene, it's all downhill from there – for the characters and the audience.

Wahlberg's character ends up becoming a major porno film star, which of course, leads him to delusions of grandeur and drug abuse. I was in grammer school through most of the 70's and early 80's, so the drug scene is nothing I can really relate to. I understand it was a big part of the culture, probably a huge part in the adult film industry. However, I don't think any film should devote what seemed like the entire final third of the film to people snorting things up their noses. After the first 10 times they did it, I got the point. Move on. Perhaps this would be the point for a little character development. Unfortunately, we get more drugs and mayhem as we accompany Dirk on his fast-track to the bottom. Who would have thought a life in the glamourous and exciting world of porn could turn out so terribly?

"I got a feeling that behind those jeans is something wonderful just waiting to get out."

Except for one scene with his lunatic mother, I got no sense of why Dirk would turn to that kind of life (besides the free sex with pretty girls and his enormous penis). The last scene (where you actually get to see the 12-inch "gift"), he's saying the same speech to the mirror he gave in the beginning of the film. Where's the growth? (No pun intended.) What were we supposed to learn from this period of his life? Don't waste your talent by using drugs? Be nice to people on the way up, cause you'll be seeing them on the way down? Tell me something I don't know. The film has some darkly comic moments, but not enough. There's also plenty of nudity, but not as much as you'd expect. What makes the experience even more disjointed is the weird and bloody moments thrown in at the end. They are vastly out of place in this soft focus world like they were thrown in to give the film weight. One sequence – a robbery in a donut shop – rivals the accidental head explosion in PULP FICTION for shear blood and guts. Only here it's not remotely funny, seemingly thrown in to give the same vibe.

Wahlberg does an admirable job in his first serious film role. He proves he has enough charisma to carry a movie, since that's exactly what he does here. Though the ladies – Graham and Moore – have more talent, they have even less to do. Moore's character actually has a motivation for the life she leads, which is something. Graham is merely a cute piece of ass. If I was either one of these gals, I'd be coked up out of my mind as well, but that doesn't make it compelling cinema. Don Cheadle does the most with his role as a reluctant stud merely looking for love. He gives one of the films only likable performances. Reynolds and Macy also strut their stuff in subtle, funny turns. I almost wish Reynolds was the lead. At least he had vision, intelligence and a sense of humor. Wahlberg is a brainless pretty boy with a dubious talent. It's hard to care about his success and downfall because he never gives you a reason too.

BOOGIE NIGHTS is an interesting look at a time period and industry rarely taken seriously. It's too bad the people you meet are ones you're only too glad to leave behind. Despite its flaws, it's an impressive feature directorial debut by Anderson. He's clearly a filmmaker with vision, passion and a very dark view of humanity.

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