Boogie Nights – Review (Spoiler Free)

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.

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20 comments

  1. This is such a fabulous movie! It’s been wayyyy too long since I’ve seen it too.

    1. Yeah, it’s pretty great! I find that it has a pretty high replay value, managing to stay consistently entertaining.
      I can’t get over how many great actors this film introduced me to when I first saw it. PTA certainly knows how to cast a film!

      1. Oh yeah, this cast is phenomenal! Have you seen Magnolia? I think that’s my favorite of his, although some people just hate it.

    2. Yeah I’m with you on that one. I’m a big, big fan of Magnolia – which of course is practically the same cast as this one.
      I haven’t seen Punch-Drunk Love or The Master, have you? I really need to watch those two soon as I’m a fan of all of his other work.

      1. I saw Punch-Drunk Love and enjoyed it but I haven’t seen The Master yet. PDL didn’t thrill me the same way Boogie Nights and Magnolia did though.

    3. OK, it’s good to hear a positive opinion on that one. I had heard several rather indifferent reports. I think I need to see There Will Be Blood again, the one time I’ve seen it I thought that there were some really great elements but it didn’t impress as much as Boogie Nights and Magnolia did.

      1. I went to see There Will Be Blood thinking I would hate it (I had free passes for a midnight screening) but I ended up really being impressed. Still not the same feeling as BN and M but impressed.

    4. That’s pretty cool about the free passes. Daniel Day-Lewis was more than impressive here and those opening minutes were seriously, seriously good. I don’t know, I guess I felt that it lacked a certain something. As I said I need to see it again really.
      Bringing it back to Boogie Nights, I really want to see The Dirk Diggler Story – his original short which was then expanded into BN. I hadn’t looked for it before but it turns out its pretty easy to find on YouTube. Have you seen it?

      1. I haven’t but if it’s on YouTube I’ll definitely be checking it out!

    5. Cool, well thanks for stopping by 🙂

  2. I’ve got to see this one as well as some other Paul Thomas Anderson films. Nice review.

    1. Thank you. Well I really do recommend it, but then I do for all PTA films!

  3. Nice review. Boogie’s not my favorite PTA, but still very good. Awesome piece of trivia there, too.

    1. Thank you and yeah it’s interesting to think about how different Leonardo’s career would be now if he had taken Boogie Nights instead. I don’t doubt that it would have launched him into stardom, but he would have been offered some rather different roles!

  4. Good review Rumsey. Probably my favorite PT Anderson flick just because of the fun and spirit that’s within his direction. Still, I don’t really think there was much of a point to this one bit.

    1. Thanks for commenting, again sorry about my Spam filter, I’ll be keeping a closer eye on it in future.
      When you say that you don’t think there was much of a point – do you mean that there wasn’t a clear moral message? I think that the film makes a fair point about the importance of family and forgiveness, and also does an interesting job of documenting changing attitudes between the 70’s and 80’s – both in the porn industry and on a wider scale. Do you not agree?

  5. Big fan of this film.
    Great review!

    1. Thank you! It’s a really great film, although not my favourite of Paul Thomas Anderson’s. Have you seen any of his others?
      Thanks for commenting!

  6. This is the reason why I think Paul Thomas Anderson is one of the most talented directors working today.

    1. I would cite Magnolia as my reason, but I’m aware that that one is often an unpopular choice.Have you watched The Dirk Diggler Story? It would be interesting to hear your thoughts comparing the two.

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