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Laramie Movie Scope:
Boogie Nights

A story about the seamy side of Hollywood

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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November 10, 1997 -- "Boogie Nights" is a searing indictment of not only the adult entertainment industry, but the whole value-free Hollywood lifestyle of the late 1970s and 1980s. At the same time it has a certain sympathy for its characters. Who was it that said, "Enigmas reveal truth?"

The story is about a young none-too-bright young busboy with acting and singing ambitions by the name of Eddie Adams (Mark Wahlberg of "Fear" and "The Basketball Diaries"). He is spotted by adult film director Jack Horner (Burt Reynolds) at a nightclub owned by a friend, Maurice T. Rodriguez (Luis Guzmán, who appears as Nicholas Turturro's father on "NYPD Blue").

After having Adams perform sex with one of his performers, "Rollergirl" (Heather Graham, who played Lorraine in "Swingers") while Horner watches, he decides the well-endowed Adams should be in the movies. Adams starts doing skin flicks and changes his name to Dirk Diggler.

Diggler rockets to the top of the porn world even begins to act out his fantasies as a James Bond-type character called Brock Landers in a series of action ski flicks with his friend Reed Rothchild (John C. Reilly of "Casualties of War") who plays Landers' sidekick Chest Rockwell. Horner and his cinematographer, Kurt Longjohn (played by Ricky Jay a magician-actor who appeared in "House of Games"), both want to create more meaningful films. They jump at the chance to push the adult film genre. Everything's going great, but it doesn't last. It never does.

Diggler begins sniffing cocaine with Amber Waves (Julianne Moore, who starred in "The Lost World"). Waves wants to be like a mother to the younger porn stars because she has lost custody of her own son. Diggler has never grown up and thinks he is invincible in his newfound success. Rapidly, he sinks even lower than a busboy in a nightclub.

This would be an interesting enough story, but the film has numerous other stories spiraling off in many directions, following many other characters. Writer-director Paul Thomas Anderson does a pretty good job of keeping all this stuff from flying apart, but some of these subplots are less interesting and less related to the film's central subject than others. There are also several shootings, beatings, a suicide and lots of blood splattered all over the place. I was expecting more of a comedy. Surprise.

Violence that flows from the actions of the characters I can understand, and there is plenty of that, but tossing in purely random violence on top that seems excessive to me. The camera work and editing were a little sloppy. A number of long tracking shots seem to call attention to technique and away from the film's subject matter. This is one area where the film's modest budget is a drawback. There is some nudity, including a full view some impressive male genitalia, but you have to expect that, given the subject matter.

Overall, despite some weaknesses, it is a compelling story. Wahlberg, as Diggler, carries the film. It is a performance worthy of an Oscar nomination. This is also Burt Reynold's best work in many years as the enigmatic Horner. Horner is at once warm and friendly, cold and calculating, exploitative and loving. There are many fine performances in the film by a number of fine actors, including last year's Oscar winner for best supporting actor in "Fargo," William H. Macy. The film's disco-laden soundtrack is also fun to listen to. This film rates a B.

Click here for links to places to buy this movie in video and/or DVD format, the soundtrack, books, even used videos, games and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 1997 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)