On this night he spots Eddie the nightclub busboy, pulls him into the family, and turns him into Dirk Diggler, porn star extraordinaire.


A Illusion review by Joan Ellis.

"Boogie Nights" will explode into the public awareness on the force of its own brilliance. It is the startling story of one extended family making its way in the hard-core porn industry, circa 1970. This is a group of very needy, mostly damaged people searching for their own dignity within the parameters of an undignified profession; they give us an occasionally hilarious, mostly wrenching look at the subculture of sex as business.

We meet all of them in what is undoubtedly one of the best opening scenes ever filmed. After a blistering musical blast, the camera moves surely around a nightclub, introducing us to the characters who are laced together by their functions in the making of hard-core porn films. By the time director Paul Thomas Anderson finishes his bravura introduction, we know that he likes his characters, and suspect that we will too.

Jack Horner (Burt Reynolds) is the patriarch of the tightly knit group, a moviemaker with a sharp eye for new talent. On this night he spots Eddie the nightclub busboy (Mark Wahlberg), pulls him into the family, and turns him into Dirk Diggler, porn star extraordinaire.

The film company is mothered by Jack's love, Amber Waves (Julianne Moore), who is as adept at auditioning new talent as she is at comforting them when they hurt. We meet Rollergirl (Heather Graham), who never removes her skates for sex or sleep, entrepreneur Buck Swope (Don Cheadle), and humiliated husband "Little Bill" (William H. Macy).

As long as Jack is building Dirk's career, the movie is wondrously original and full of fun, but the very dark side of the fun is drug abuse. As heroin begins to take its awful toll on the principals, who are now sinking into their damaged cores, things become more predictable, sometimes derivative, and very tough to watch.

Burt Reynolds is terrific as the producer who wants to lift his work into art: "This is the film I want them to remember me by." Mark Wahlberg is amazing as the sweet kid who uses his grand endowment---"Everybody has one gift"-- to achieve stardom and then accepts his award as if it were the Nobel Prize. When his fortunes turn, he moans, "It's like Napoleon when he was king in the Roman Empire; everybody was after him." Julianne Moore is deeply moving as the kind, but weak drug addict whose brain has gone to mush. There is not one flawed performance to interrupt the rhythm of this movie.

Director Paul Thomas Anderson, who is 27 years old, has drawn astonishing performances from his players, who must convey an enormous range of emotion and change. He has managed to inject great compassion into a movie about sex as public entertainment. It is the measure of Mr. Anderson's talent that he maintains the dignity of his movie throughout. Delivering scene after scene of flashing intensity, he has made a disturbing and original film that is this year's Roman candle.

Film Critic : JOAN ELLIS
Word Count : 498
Studio : New Line Cinema
Rating : R
Running Time: 2h32m

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