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Boogie Nights Print E-mail
Tuesday, 07 April 1998

Boogie Nights

New Line Home Video
MPAA rating: R
starring: Mark Wahlberg, Julianne Moore, Burt Reynolds, Don Cheadle, John C. Reilly, William H. Macy, Heather Graham, Nicole Parker, Philip Seymour Hoffman
release year: 1997
film rating: Four stars
sound/picture: Four stars
reviewed by: Abbie Bernstein

If you start out with your sound system cranked to a decent level, 'Boogie Nights' will give you a jolt the instant the opening titles start. Something that's a taste of what's to come--if you came of age in the '70s, the soundtrack is wall-to-wall nostalgia.

Writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson has created a kind of intimate epic with 'Boogie Nights.' It's an oddly endearing and nonjudgmental comedy/drama set in the L.A. porno film industry of the mid-'70s and early '80s; a soap opera that is alternately funny and sad about an extended family-by-choice of skin flick makers and stars. Their biggest collective sin, in the film's view, may be their chronic inability to comprehend how the world works behond the boundaries of their specialized industry.

Mark Wahlberg stars as Eddie Adams, a 17-year-old who is welcomed into the hetero division of the adult film industry by director/producer Jack Horner (Burt Reynolds). Stardom arrives soon, with all of its attendant benefits and problems, but Eddie's trajectory is not what we expect.

Filmmaker Anderson recognizes a truism about earning audience sympathy for his characters: if we are to like them, it helps if they like each other. We can't help but respond to the camaraderie between these people, which has little to do with lust (apart from a few scattered moments of spontaneous passion, the people in 'Boogie Nights' regard sex quite literally as work) and everything to do with a need to belong. Reynolds' subtle, surprisingly wise performance rightly got an Oscar nomination--you actually believe him as a father figure for the herd of lost souls populating the scenes.

Anderson also nails the look of his period and of the kinds of films his characters are making. Anybody who recognizes the genre will giggle uncontrollably at the ambitious narrative porn flick summed up in Chapter 17. For funny shading into extremely scary, there's Chapters 33 and 34, which have an authentic sense of dread.

The disk and packaging are unusually generous with extra goodies. There are nine whole additional scenes cut (probably for time) from the feature release version in the special features section. The jacket contains a fold-out photo gallery and many chapter headings have not only descriptive titles ("Dirk's New House") but also list the key song that plays during the sequence. By all means, check out Anderson's droll commentary on the music video he shot during editing.

Anderson keeps us involved intellectually and viscerally, showing us how his characters are shaped by living in an era when flouting convention was encouraged and when sex was not potentially life-threatening. One sign of the changing times, a major plot point, is absolutely logical, yet so expected when it comes up--because Anderson has so successfully brought us back to the '70s--that it would be a crime to reveal it here, but techies will chortle with delight. 'Boogie Nights' seems not to miss a trick as it accurately and affectionately recreates a familiar period from a novel, but convincing perspective.

more details
sound format:
Dolby 5.1 Surround
aspect ratio(s):
special features: English and French Soundtracks; English, French and Spanish Subtitles; Deleted Scenes; Cast and Crew Biographies; "Try" Music Video; Director Commentary; Music From Film; Animated Menus
comments: email us here...
reference system
DVD player: Kenwood DV-403
receiver: Kenwood VR-407
main speakers: Paradigm Atom
center speaker: Paradigm CC-170
rear speakers: Paradigm ADP-70
subwoofer: Paradigm PDR-10
monitor: 27-inch Toshiba

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