Boogie Nights

movie review by Christopher Null

Four Stars

Now this is some production. I'm lucky enough to live in one of the "selected cities" for Boogie Nights's limited opening (it goes wide on Oct. 31), and in all my years as a moviegoer, I think this is the first time I've seen a mirrorball in the theater put to use during a film. Outside of that, Boogie Nights may have generated the most enthusiastic audience response I've heard in ages.

The premise is simple and well-known. Young "Dirk Diggler" ("Marky" Mark Wahlberg) is a busboy discovered in a Receda nightclub by a big-time porn flick producer (Burt Reynolds, in perhaps his best role *ever*). Mingling with the likes of Amber Waves (Julianne Moore, my fave actress), the innocent Rollergirl (Heather Graham, who doesn't have nearly enough screen time), and other bigshots of the biz, Diggler rises (so to speak) and falls as the porn industry ruptures during the dawn of the 1980s.

One of the more frightening portrayals of life in the 70s to hit screens recently, Boogie Nights is full of kitsch and sprawls over a full decade of excess. Writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson, who hit-and-missed with Hard Eight, takes a dozen characters through 2 1/2 hours of meandering storylines, supporting players, drug/sex binges, and more costume changes than you can fathom. Because he has so much to say, and because everyone's story goes in a different direction, a lot of this film gets lost in the margins. Too many characters are too much alike, and most of them are too shallow to merit any screen time at all.

The result is a sloppy, scattered feature that, surprisingly, completely engaged me from the opening shot. I don't exactly know why Boogie Nights is so enjoyable, but it's probably because it's just so much fun to *watch*. Porn has never been handled with such style and irony before, and watching Anderson serve up slice after slice of the industry's excess and self-defeat is hysterical, despite the obvious problems with the script. (Note that the film's sex scenes are very inexplicit.)

There's probably not much of a message to take away from the film (Don't Do Drugs has been done before), but it doesn't suffer much from it. You'll need to swallow your preconceived notions, but I would not hesitate to recommend the film to just about anyone.

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