A hilarious and also affecting look into the adult film industry during the 70’s and 80’s, Boogie Nights tackles an inherently difficult subject and avoids the obvious, but dangerous pitfalls that litter such a controversial area. There is nudity, but it is sparse and is very clearly handled non-gratuitously, presenting sex as an industry and not overly eroticising it for viewers. It doesn’t undermine itself with broad statements about the industry and its place in the world, but focuses on this particular group of pornographers and performers, and affectionately studies their relationships with each other, and their industry, as it changes drastically around them. It’s also a great film about family; the surrogate family that these people provide for each other is interesting in its complexity and its fragility and is arguably this film’s ultimate focus, as opposed to the industry itself.
Paul Thomas Anderson assembles some of the best casts I’ve ever seen, to list just some of Boogie Nights’ cast members there’s: Julianne Moore, Philip Seymour Hoffman, William H. Macy, Heather Graham, Melora Walters, John C. Reilly, Ricky Jay, Burt Reynolds, and also an excellent Mark Wahlberg as our lead character. Everyone gives a great performance in this film but a special mention has to go to Julianne Moore who is excellent at portraying, not only a deeply complex character, but also one who is a bad actress. It requires a certain level of acting to be able to convincingly act badly and she does it so very well here. A surprise appearance by Alfred Molina marks one of my all time favourite scenes, I won’t go into details here to preserve spoilers but I just think that it excellently captures a certain emotional state and is particularly memorable. Plus it’s Alfred Molina – I’ve always got time for this guy, and he’s a load of fun here.
Perhaps Boogie Nights is a little too long with a running time of two and a half hours, but I never really thought that whilst watching it, and it certainly doesn’t feel overly long or stretched. I’ll admit that the first time I saw it I wasn’t particularly impressed. I say this not to put people off but because I know of several people, apart from myself, who really felt that it benefitted from a re-watch. Maybe if you’ve seen it before and weren’t blown away then you could also give it another try? Still it’s a lot of fun first time around, in fact I would even call it thoroughly entertaining, so please don’t be put off. It’s not Paul Thomas Anderson’s best film but it’s certainly pretty great and very worthy of attention.
Fun Fact: Did you know that Leonardo DiCaprio was originally offered the lead role for this film but had to turn it down due to already being committed to Titanic? It was also DiCaprio who suggested Mark Wahlberg for the role instead of himself.