In the 1970s, when the world was suffering from natural disasters and an economic recession, something else was churning in the belly of the beast. It was a way of life for some, and for others a vile existence. Director Paul Thomas Anderson takes us through the maze of this lifestyle in his highly praised film, “Boogie Nights.” Set in the suburbs of Los Angeles, known as “The Valley,” the movie introduces us to Eddie Adams, a young dishwasher who works in a local club. Unloved and unwanted by his mother, the lost boy leaves his insufferable home. Eddie falls into the welcoming hands of another family helmed by father figure Jack Horner, impeccably played by Burt Reynolds, a mogul in the pornography empire and a frequent patron at the club where Eddie is employed. Jack transforms Eddie, outstandingly acted by Mark Wahlberg, into Dirk Diggler, Jack’s new star whose genetics are well-suited to his career. We watch Dirk’s rise to the top as he enjoys the seeds of his wealth and delves into materialistic mania.
Anderson weaves into Dirk’s web an eclectic group of desperate souls, and willing participants in Jack’s movies, all seeking the quintessential pulse of life, love and acceptance. Jack’s coke-fiend girlfriend and starlet of his films, Amber Waves, deliciously played by the breathtaking Julianne Moore, is a mother vying for custody of her young son. Rollergirl, played by the sweet Heather Graham, is a young teen trying to get an education. Buck Swope, played by the brilliant Don Cheadle, is a budding entrepreneur who hopes for the American Dream. Sprinkled in the mix are Jack’s actors and film crew including Reed Rothchild (John C. Reilly), Scotty J (Phillip Seymour Hoffman), and Little Bill (William H. Macy), who through their mere existence struggle for their identity in a culture that is taboo. They are shunned by many but bond together and form their own safe haven inside the walls of their porn sets.
While at the top, Dirk becomes a drug addict. Unable to handle Dirk’s mood swings and outrageous demands, Jack disassociates from Dirk. We see his fast decline and subsequent fall to rock-bottom, where he must resort to male prostitution for fast cash. After an encounter with another male turns into a bloody beating, Dirk concocts an outlandish plan to con a drug dealer. After that plan leaves his friend dead, Dirk goes back to Jack and is welcomed with open arms and continues his film career.
Anderson’s plan all along was to captivate us with such characters. We are shocked by their occupation but smitten with their demeanor. Their life of sexual exploration is their occupation, their backyard rendezvous are their salvation, and their pain is also their redemption. We begin to roote for these unfortunate underdogs, and secretly hope they win. We must give kudos to Anderson’s team of masters, as they beautify the screen and transport us back in time. The soundtrack alone with music from both the 70s and 80s tops off one of the best films of all time.
“Boogie Nights” will not only get you dancing, it will get you thinking.
Mark Wahlberg, Julianne Moore, Burt Reynolds
1. The Fighter
2. Boogie Nights
3. The Italian Job
4. The Perfect Storm
5. The Departed
6. Date Night
7. Max Payne
8. The Happening
9. Three Kings
10. Rock Star