Combustible Celluloid
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With: Mark Wahlberg, Burt Reynolds, Julianne Moore, Don Cheadle, William H. Macy, Philip Baker Hall, John C. Reilly, Heather Graham, Luis Guzman, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Alfred Molina, Joanna Gleason, Ricky Jay, Melora Walters, Robert Downey, John Doe
Written by: Paul Thomas Anderson
Directed by: Paul Thomas Anderson
MPAA Rating: R for strong sex scenes with explicit dialogue, nudity, drug use, language and violence
Running Time: 156
Date: 11/09/1997

Boogie Nights (1997)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Porn Again

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Boogie Nights may ignite some controversy, but then again it may not. For a movie about the porn industry it seemed pretty tame to me. The excellent cast includes Mark Wahlberg as "Dirk Diggler," a dishwasher-turned porn star, Burt Reynolds as Jack Horner, the father figure director who makes him a star, and Julianne Moore as the experienced porn star who teaches Dirk the ropes. This is Reynolds' best movie in decades. He shows a father's iron will and uninhibited love for his "family," and those feelings seep through to the audience.

A whole cast of misfits (Don Cheadle, William H. Macy, Philip Baker Hall, John C. Reilly and Heather Graham as "Rollergirl" -- all excellent) surround this trio. In fact, if it weren't for the porn, drugs, and violence, this would be an ideal movie to take the kids to. It's all about belonging, and sticking with your family.

Boogie Nights is packed with pop songs from the era. Ordinarily, this is a cop-out; a movie like Forrest Gump merely parades the top songs from the years it passes through, but Anderson exhibits a little more care in his choices. These songs are particularly bad and obscure nuggets, some of which are thematically connected with their scenes. (Rollergirl "auditions" Dirk to the tune of Melanie's "Brand New Key"!) Anderson keeps the music moving almost non-stop throughout the movie, leaving little time for an overpowering score, often the undoing of many Hollywood films.

Paul Thomas Anderson, the movie's 26 year old writer and director, has cooked up a smart script with a terrific rainbow of characters and believable dialogue. As a director, he borrows bits and pieces from Scorsese, De Palma, Altman, and Tarantino, but he shows a confidence and energy of his own. During a wonderful scene concerning a drug-dealer, he throws us off balance by having one character toss lit firecrackers around the room, while a 1980s-era mix tape plays at top volume.

If Anderson's enthusiasm sustains as he matures, we can look forward to some great films in the future.

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