Boogie Nights is full of contradictions. It takes place in the porn industry and deals exclusively with sex, but never becomes offensive or shocking. An epic story of a very different, interesting and full-of-ups-and-downs life, but with the title of a chick flick, a lightweight musical or even a high school comedy. Although full of dry and cynical comedy moments, Paul Anderson’s Boogie Nights is one of the most raw, brutally honest, dramatic and in-your-face stories to have ever been told in the cinema world. An all-around funky upbeat disco soundtrack dressing this body exploitation, sex commercialization and themes of heavy loneliness.
Boogie Nights tells the story of Eddie Adams (Mark Wahlberg), a good-looking “gifted” young man who takes on one small and insignificant job after the other. He looks like he is going nowhere and seems to be lacking skills in every area, until he meet Jack Horner (Burt Reynolds) and his entire life take a very different direction towards the better and at the same time, worse. Eddie soon switches to Dirk, Adams to Diggler, and the newcomer makes an impressive porno debut alongside famous star Amber Waves (Julianne Moore). Before long, he discovers his not-so-hidden-anymore skills and his audience discovers his remarkable capability to “go” and “come” again without breaks and without wasting precious studio time and money.
As frank and down-to-earth as this. No games, no trying to turn anyone on, no hiding, no implying. This is work and Dirk Diggler becomes a professional who does his job very well. At the same time, his colleagues respect him for this, and thus a type of family is created that seems to be less dysfunctional than most ones shaped in the normal and less skin-showing world. Funnily enough, things only start falling apart and people lose their tight connection when their porn work becomes repetitive, when some go off to do other things and when drugs, fame, arrogance and too much money enter the picture. Bottom-line, porn is just a well-paid job, and loneliness or companionship comes from the way one chooses to do this job and how involved he wants to get.
The events take place in the 1970s before they move onto the 1980s for the last part of the film, and this time of excess, colourful clothes, disco music and drugs is evoked brilliantly. Mark Wahlberg is great as Eddie Adams/Dirk Diggler, combining dramatical moments with cynicism and comedy more easily than his looks would have ever given away. A highly versatile actor who takes every role farther than his audience can ever anticipate, he indeed takes Dirk Diggler to amazing highs and plays him up and down right where it’s needed. On his side are Julianne Moore, Burt Reynolds, John C. Reilly, Don Cheadle, Heather Graham, Luis Guzmán, Rico Bueno, Nicole Ari Parker, William H. Macy and Joanna Gleason, among many others. Together, they give very realistic “baring-all” performances, which written, directed and manipulated by Paul Anderson make Boogie Nights something different, a contradicting film on all levels, an interesting and thought-provoking porn tale about the good and the bad times.
Boogie Nights is light at times and heavy at others. It deals with things that come easy and all those things that come extremely hard, or in some cases, don’t come at all. It makes its audience laugh, cry, think and unwind. It’s pink and it’s black. It offers visuals and music that bring on a beautiful nostalgia, and then the same sounds and sights evoke a decadence and self-destruction that take any possible romance away from the picture. Boogie Nights builds up and crashes down. And Paul Anderson writes, directs, coloufully dresses and sneeringly strips every single one of his characters, revealing the ins and outs of yet another profession that came to exist to satisfy the needs of its audience, rather than the needs of the workers.