Boogie Nights (1997)
Mark Wahlberg, Julianne Moore, Burt Reynolds, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Don Cheadle, John C. Reilly, William H. Macy, Heather Graham, Luis Guzman. Written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson.
It took me nineteen years to get to this. I can hardly believe it’s been that long; Boogie Nights was always right on the edges of my awareness, a film I’d heard so much about from so many people I respect, that it doesn’t seem possible I’ve had it in mental queue for this many years.
I was sure I would like it, and I like it very much. From its long, opening Steadicam take to its wistful end, I was infected by the vibrancy of a filmmaker who has a meaningful vision and who just seems to enjoy what he’s doing. It’s a feeling of “I’m having fun making this movie” I only sense when I’m watching Tarantino films, and Tarantino may be my favorite director. Every actor—and just look at this cast—plays as if he or she is in the role of a lifetime, and that goes as much for minor supporting actors like Robert Downey Sr. and Joanna Gleason as some of my favorite headlining actors today, like Don Cheadle, William H. Macy, and Julianne Moore.
Yes, it’s a movie about people living in the strange world of pornographic filmmaking, with all its weird dynamics and supposed realities, but it’s really a movie about family and relationships as they are defined in this very specific world, with Burt Reynolds as the father, Julianne Moore as the mother, Mark Wahlberg and Heather Graham as the kids, and everyone else as nieces, nephews, cousins, and uncles. You could almost forget that they are all involved with making porn, except of course you can’t because there’s a lot to remind you. I’m mildly surprised that this didn’t get an NC-17 rating.
I was so taken by the characters, dialogue, acting, and production that I watched it three times on consecutive nights, the last two with the director’s and actors’ commentaries. I could have watched it another five nights in a row. I can’t think of one thing I dislike about it.