“I got a feeling that behind those jeans is something wonderful waiting to get out” – Jack Horner (Burt Reynolds)
When I think of Paul Thomas Anderson, three things pop into my head. Stellar cast and the ability to bring out the absolute best in everyone, perfection craftsmanship and lastly, originality. Not many directors out there can say they excel in all three. I don’t really see PTA as merely a director, I see him as a filmmaker, and yes there is a difference.
Boogie Nights was the movie that put PTA on the map. Somewhat of a feature remake of a short mock-documentary he made way back in ’88, Boogie Nights tells the story of Eddie Adams (Mark Wahlberg) later known as Dirk Diggler, and his epic foray into the Adult Film industry in late ’70s California. A time when everybody was having sex to Disco music and snorting Coke in-between meals was the norm. Adams is discovered by legendary Porn producer Jack Horner backstage at a nightclub. Horner, desperate to take his adult movies to the next level, spots something in Adams and invites him to “audition”. After a successful showing, Adams joins Horner and his band of merry misfits and hangers-on at his swanky mansion. Dirk Diggler is born soon after.
Horner’s extended family include the likes of William H. Macy (and his sex-obsessed wife), Don Cheadle (obsessed with country music), Heather Graham (obsessed with roller-skates), John C. Reilly (obsessed with being a big screen action star), Julianne Moore (obsessed with being a good mother) and Philip Seymour Hoffman (obsessed with Dirk).
The key connection with all these characters is, you’ve guessed it, obsession. There’s one problem though. With obsession you keep coming back and back and back to the same question but never get an answer. Dirk’s rise to fame and notoriety shoots through the roof, but just as fast is his – and the lives of his friends and colleagues – fall into oblivion.
Despite being taken under the wing of Amber Waves (Moore), a popular but ageing female lead, Dirk’s world soon comes crashing down creating an unwanted butterfly effect that threatens to put Horner out of business. Like Dirk, the extended families lives spiral out of control. Drug abuse, robbery, and in some cases death.
Surely one of the greatest supporting cast performances in recent history with the likes of Luiz Guzman, Philip Baker Hall, Thomas Jane and Alfred Molina to name but a few, providing endless entertainment. The scene in which Jane and Molina collide is particularly rememberable. Burt Reynolds is an inspiring choice for Horner and gives the performance of a lifetime in my opinion. Marky Mark (I will always call him that) perfectly portrays the shy, hopeful, working class kid who just wants to make money and be successful and prove his alcoholic Mother wrong. In fact, as stated above, all the cast are on their A-game here, bringing superbly their characters to life. Not an easy feat considering there is so many of them.
Everything about Boogie Nights feels authentic. The set pieces, the clothes, the overall nonchalant behaviour and freedom. The soundtrack is spot on and maybe one of the most important aspects in melting all the other pieces of the 70s/80s puzzle neatly together. From start to finish, Boogie Nights is a joy to watch. Filled with an array of loveable characters, each who have their own personal story to tell and filmed in what has become typically PTA’s style of cleverly moving camerawork and technically gifted use of light to set a scene, makes Boogie Nights a modern day classic. It’s still my favourite PTA movie to date and no doubt will be the movie that he is remembered for. Even if it’s just for the endless unforgettable quotes or the sight of a 13 inch… well you know!
This isn’t a sex movie. I mean yes, there are tits, asses, scenes of sexual intercourse and continued references to Dirk’s manhood… wait, it is a sex movie, so if you are in anyway prudish then this isn’t for you. But if you just want to be entertained for two and a half hours then look no further.
Gavin Logan – Follow me on Twitter