Boogie Nights (1997), the sophomore feature from Paul Thomas Anderson, is a surprisingly vibrant, funny, and at times quite warm story of a dysfunctional filmmaking family in the adult film industry of the late 1970s.
Partially inspired by the life of porno star John Holmes, it stars Burt Reynolds as a quiet but firm director Dad and Julianne Moore as the porn star surrogate mother to the company’s teen stars Rollergirl (Heather Graham) and Dirk Diggler (Mark Wahlberg), the “natural” from the suburbs who is quickly recruited. Anderson’s flamboyant camerawork creates a heady atmosphere of excitement and energy that comes crashing down in the third act when the porno industry changes almost overnight and Diggler’s ego (fed by an out-of-control drug habit and delusions of talent) sends him out of his family’s bosom and into the cold, cruel world. And yet he still manages to pull out a happy ending (of sorts) against all odds.
Boogie Nights is an impassioned and creative portrait of American souls in distress from a young, passionate filmmaker who threw himself headlong into his movies (his follow-up, Magnolia, pushes even further). Sure it’s a little too long, suffers from too many characters that aren’t fleshed well enough, and almost brakes to a halt in the pacing-impaired third act, but those are quibbles in such a dynamic piece of filmmaking.
By the time of There Will Be Blood, Anderson had honed his talents and his vision, creating images that look hewn out of the rock of his landscapes and stripped of all but the elemental essence of his film. This is different, the ambitious explorations of a young artist excited to embrace the possibilities of the tools at his disposal, and for all the self-indulgence and unrealized ambition, it is an exciting, enthralling work of storytelling that is carried along by his delight in filmmaking itself as much as by the stories.
It also stars John C. Reilly, Don Cheadle, Philip Seymour Hoffman, William H. Macy, Luis Guzman, Nicole Ari Parker, Philip Baker Hall, Thomas Jane, and Ricky Jay, and was nominated for three Academy Awards: for the performances of Reynolds and Moore and for Anderson’s screenplay.
Streams for a limited time on Hulu
Also on Blu-ray and DVD both well-endowed with supplements (see below the trailer for details) and SVOD through Amazon Video and other services. Availability may vary by service.
Boogie Nights [DVD]
Boogie Nights [Blu-ray]
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The new Blu-ray and DVD special editions feature two commentary tracks (one solo by Anderson, one featuring eight members of the cast), almost 30 minutes of outtakes and deleted scenes with optional commentary by Anderson, “The John C. Reilly Files” featuring extended scenes and outtakes with actor John C. Reilly, a music video, and the trailer. It’s more fun than a hot tub full of porn stars!