Boogie Nights

Boogie Nights

***

Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

The Rise and fall of a porn star is not that different from the rise and fall of a pop singer. Less travel maybe and less backstage sex. Otherwise it's the same old fame intoxication gig, with baggies of nose dust to hasten the tumble.

Eddie (Mark Wahlberg, aka Marky Mark) is an unambitious, small town Californian kid, who discovers that being hung like a donkey has its advantages. Jack Horner (Bert Reynolds), no longer little and definitely out of his corner, makes shagging flicks and is always on the look out for fresh talent. He discovers Eddie in the kitchens of his favourite Mexican night spot and invites him to partake in a little on-screen nookie.

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Eddie is a natural. Fucking in public doesn't bother him at all. In fact, when he comes too soon in a scene, he offers to do it again at once. The movies Jack makes are B blues - forget the storyline, feel the size - and the life he leads wouldn't offend a curate's daughter. There is an air of innocence about his attitude to what he does. He dresses like a country singer, has standard Hollytrash accessories and yet appears asexual, affectionate with his women, rather than pimping for them.

The period is late Seventies/early Eighties. Drugs are still sweeties and Mafia infiltration of anything goodtime has not yet stained the wallpaper. Eddie is proud of what he calls his talent and friendship with the other studs is thankfully free of homoerotic overtones. This is the story of a dim guy who thinks he's bigger than the biz. He is in one particular, but that's all.

There are many admirable aspects to the film. Paul Thomas Anderson, the 26-year-old writer-director, has taken a top-shelf subject and exposed it to the mainstream with an artistry that has no pretension and more sympathy than you might expect. He treats the business of pornography, if that is what this is, like the organisation of a poolside barbecue.

Ultimately, for reasons that are not immediately obvious, it is deeply depressing. None of the characters, with the exception of Amber Waves (Julianne Moore), Jack's live-in comfort blanket, star of his flicks and a legally abused divorcee, has soul. Anderson lacks Tarantino's flair for language.

The humour comes with the package, rather than from it. Even Reynolds' much heralded performance cannot be described as a toughie. He paces himself like a geriatric marathon walker and takes few risks.

Reviewed on: 19 Jan 2001
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A small-town boy's 'big' break in the Seventies porn industry.
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Director: Paul Thomas Anderson

Writer: Paul Thomas Anderson

Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Burt Reynolds, John C. Reilly, Julianne Moore, Heather Graham, Don Cheadle, Luis Guzmán, Philip Seymour Hoffman, William H Macy, Thomas Jane, Melora Walters

Year: 1997

Runtime: 155 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US

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