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Boogie Nights (1997)
Rated R

Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Burt Reynolds, and Julianne Moore

Rating:
*****
out of
*****

Boogie Nights tells the unusual story of Eddie Adams, a teenager endowed with a special gift -- a 13 inch special gift, to be exact. The film chronicles Eddie's foray into the world of adult films and his encounters with some of that genre's truly unique characters.

Assuming the screen name of Dirk Diggler, Eddie (played by Mark Wahlberg) finds a family in filmmaker Jack Horner's corral of talent. Horner, played with extreme sensitivity by Burt Reynolds, takes Eddie in and shows him the ways of the adult film world. Horner has one dream: to make a film that will actually keep the audience in their seats to see how the story comes out. He believes that Dirk Diggler is a key in his being able to do that. "He's my 17-year-old piece of gold," says Horner.

Horner's live-in girlfriend/main actress is Amber Waves (Julianne Moore). Amber becomes a mother figure to Dirk. She's got a real son that she hasn't seen much of due to a messy divorce. Dirk provides her with an outlet for her motherly affections as well as her cocaine habit.

The rest of Horner's crew provides the film with a lot of characters to work with. Little Bill (William H. Macy) has trouble keeping tabs on his wife, frequently finding her in bed with other men -- sometimes with an audience. Scotty (Philip Seymour Hoffman) finds himself attracted to Dirk and has trouble expressing it. Buck Swope (Don Cheadle), a sometimes porn actor/sometimes stereo salesman, can't seem to settle on a wardrobe that suits him. Rollergirl (Heather Graham) constantly rolls around on roller skates -- even while she's otherwise completely naked.

Director Paul Thomas Anderson captures the era the film covers (1977 to 1984) perfectly. His portrayal of the adult film industry's shift from film to video and its perceived effect on film makers like Jack Horner is a sympathetic one. Jack Horner, a man you might think has no morals, cringes at the prospect of putting his work onto videotape.

Burt Reynolds leads an exceptional cast of actors and actresses that breathe realism into each character. Reynolds' former wise-ass, Trans Am-driving screen persona melts away after viewing this film. Reynolds may have had trouble finding work before taking this role but he certainly deserves his Oscar nomination and the Golden Globe Award he's recently received. This film, and 1989's Breaking In, showcase what he's able to do with distinguished acting roles. I wish him luck in finding more meaty roles in the future. God forbid he should appear in anything like Bean again.

While the film's subject matter may seem a bit off-putting, Anderson and company handle it with sheer realism. The film takes a seemingly light-hearted approach, which makes the downfall of the likable characters so brutal to watch.

In all aspects, Boogie Nights succeeds. It's just too bad that the subject matter alone will keep a certain number of people out of the theater.

Trivia: Michael Penn, responsible for the film's musical score, also plays the role of Nick, a studio technician working on Dirk Diggler's album. (Source: The Internet Movie Database)

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