“Boogie Nights” is Paul Thomas Anderson’s masterpiece, and it’s not a close call when compared to the rest of his catalogue. Critics loved “There Will Be Blood,” but that film is too long, painfully boring and grossly overrated, saved partly by Daniel Day-Lewis’s typically memorable performance.
On the other hand, “Boogie Nights” is even more ambitious and provides a much more enjoyable experience as PTA explores the seedy world of the porn industry in the late 70s and early 80s. Like all his movies, the film is visually spectacular as PTA recreates the tacky world of the period, while introducing us to a series of memorable characters caught up in the wild world of porn. Unlike many of PTA’s other films, however, “Boogie Nights” also tells a coherent story that skillfully weaves together the lives of his characters and holds the audience’s attention through the end.
I recently re-watched the film for the umpteenth time and came away with several impressions:
Comeback Role for Burt Reynolds
The casting decisions here are flawless, and it all starts with Burt Reynolds as Jack Horner, the porn director who wants to be taken seriously as a filmmaker. Jack lives in a large, mid-century modern house with a large pool and bar in the back. It’s perfect for parties and porn shoots and just big enough for some of his regular actors and actresses to live there. Burt was 61 when he shot this film, sporting a salt & pepper hair piece and beard. He’s older and looks distinguished but still has sex appeal and loads of charisma. Jack serves as a sort of father-figure to the younger actors and actresses and Burt’s understated and nuanced portrayal of Jack is critical to this film. With that context, it was quite shocking to learn that Burt hated working with PTM and disliked the film.
The plot follows the rise and fall of a young, well-endowed kid who dreams of being a star. Mark Wahlberg does a fine job playing Eddie. He’s a sweet and friendly kid working as a dishwasher in a club in the Valley when Jack discovers him. He then takes on the stage name of Dirk Diggler, joining the band of misfits starring in Jack’s films.