Overview: A high school dropout enters the infamous world of pornography. New Line Cinema; 1997; Rated R; 155 minutes.
The Glamorous Façade: Sex, drugs, and parties permeate the screen in Paul Thomas Anderson’s Boogie Nights. The camera remains in constant motion, long shots establish the extent of this party oriented lifestyle. Neon-lights cover the screen to give us a sense of flash and excitement. Like the characters we are drawn in, enthralled by the porn business.
Mark Wahlberg’s Dirk Diggler is a rising star with ideas that will change the porn industry. Diggler is only his porn nickname, but once he adopts the moniker, he refuses to be addressed by anything else through the remainder of the movie. As the character constantly reminds us, he’s here to rock and roll. Wahlberg pumps the charisma to eleven but he’s not fooling us. He’s a self-destructive child without any proper upbringing. A screaming confrontation with his mother early in the film will certainly pull on your heart-strings and gives insight to the wounded child beneath overcompensation. A standout alongside Wahlberg is Julianne Moore as Amber Waves, a divorced mother and cocaine addict that takes Diggler under her wing. She shows motherly care for all the younger characters in the film but can’t seem to get her own affairs in order. The supporting cast is almost too perfect in their line delivery and use. Even if an actor is onscreen for less than ten minutes, you’ll have a hard time forgetting they were in the movie.
The Diggler Reality: These character’s lives revolve around sex and drugs. How bad could it be? Well for one thing: their lives revolve around sex and drugs. That’s it. They’re broken people trapped in an endless void of bad habits and worse decisions.
Sex itself isn’t a bad habit. It’s natural. It’s how we keep our planet populated. It’s one of life’s greatest pleasures. PTA doesn’t take this approach. The sex is deconstructed like any manufactured product for public entertainment. The pornographers establish multiple shot angles to best capture the mood. When a producer realizes Diggler didn’t climax at the appropriate angle for a money shot, he simply offers to do it again.
Final Thoughts: Boogie Nights is bolstered by memorable performances from an impeccable cast. Attractive, with a subtly darker, depressing underbelly – this is one for the ages.