Posted by: ckckred | March 2, 2013

Boogie Nights

Paul Thomas Anderson's sophomore feature is nothing short of amazing

Paul Thomas Anderson’s sophomore feature is nothing short of amazing

Over the past decade or so, Paul Thomas Anderson has created quite a stir in the movie world.  In Magnolia, he created a world of coincidence, lost hopes, and dreams, in Punch-Drunk Love he showed a man full of rage and sorrow, in There Will Be Blood he depicted the worst greed can bring, and in The Master he explored cult religions. He is without a doubt one of the best directors working today, perhaps the best, and undoubtedly will go down as a cinema legend.  Anderson’s second movie, Boogie Nights, was his breakout film and his most popular movie.  It’s as cool and slick as the era it depicts: the 70s.

Boogie Nights starts off in 1977 in San Fernando Valley.  The adult filmmaking business is booming there, and veteran adult filmmaker Jack Horner (Burt Reynolds) dominates the local industry like Vito Corleone.  He discovers at a local nightclub a dishwasher named Eddie Adams (Mark Wahlberg), who is rumored to have a “special gift” and Jack believes that he can make Eddie the next big thing in the business.  Jack announces that he wants to make a movie so good the audience will stay in the theater even after they finished doing what they came for and thinks Eddie can help him make such a picture.  Soon, Eddie leaves his home and overbearing parents to join Jack and becomes the biggest actor in the adult film business, renaming himself Dirk Diggler.

While Boogie Nights focus primarily on Dirk, there are other important characters as well.  There’s Amber Waves (Julianne Moore), an adult film star who desperately wants to see her child again.  There’s Reed Rothchild (John C. Reilly), who quickly becomes friends with Dirk and joins him in his moviea.  There’s Rollergirl (Heather Graham), an adult film star who never takes off her skates.  There’s Little Bill Thompson (William H. Macy), Jack’s assistant director whose wife constantly cheats on him… publicly (in one of the film’s funniest scenes, Bill discovers his wife and another man with a crowd of people surrounding them).  There’s Scotty (Philip Seymour Hoffman), the boom guy in Jack’s films who secretly has a crush on Dirk. There’s Buck Swope (Don Cheadle), an actor in Jack’s films who dreams of one day opening a stereo business.  And there’s Maurice Rodriguez (Luis Guzmán), a nightclub owner who wants to enter the adult film business.

Boogie Nights juggles many characters, similarly to Anderson’s next feature Magnolia, and does so very skillfully.  While each character doesn’t have an individual story like Magnolia, they all have hopes and dreams and the story often diverts from Dirk’s coming of the age story.

From my plot description, Boogie Nights may sound sophomoric and puerile and no better than its subject but that would be missing the point.  Boogie Nights is a mature picture made by a mature director.  It never resorts to crudeness and even limits the nudity to a certain extent.  The adult film industry merely provides a background for the characters in the film, whose relationships and struggles are the real star of the film.  The movie is very funny in a Tarantinoeque manner, full of quotable dialogue and violence.

Boogie Nights is almost like a collaborative effort between Robert Altman and Martin Scorsese, both two directors Anderson greatly respects.  Boogie Nights‘ large ensemble reflects those Altman created in films like Short Cuts and The Player.  And like Martin Scorsese, Anderson directs the movie with such flare and skill it’s hard to believe he was only 26.  Boogie Nights closely resembles GoodFellas as both are about the rise and fall of men in a growing business (in GoodFellas the mafia), and also has the same tone.  By the 1980s, Dirk’s ego is so large he believes himself to be the king of the adult film industry, which is flailing due to the coming of VHS tapes. During drug scenes, Anderson films the movie in a completely different style just like Scorsese did, using quicker cuts and fast paced shots.  Anderson also interrupts scenes of humor with violence.  Plus both have great soundtracks that each take songs from their respective time periods.

But I was also hugely impressed with the acting in the film.  Anderson also gets great performance out of actors like Daniel Day-Lewis, Tom Cruise, Joaquin Phoenix, and even Adam Sandler.  Here everyone is impressive in their role.  I’ve never been a fan of Wahlberg but he perfectly plays Dirk.  The role was originally considered for Leonardo DiCaprio, but Anderson picked the right choice with Wahlberg.  Burt Reynolds is also in top-form as Jack Horner in an Oscar nominated performance (which he should have won for).  Julianne Moore also impresses as Amber, playing the character with spunk and emotion, and the rest of the cast is great from John C. Reilly to Philip Seymour Hoffman.

While I would argue Magnolia remains Anderson’s crown jewel and that his later films are more refined, Boogie Nights is nothing short of great.  Violent, shocking, and darkly hilarious, Boogie Nights is a cultural touchstone not to be missed.


  1. Great review mate. I haven’t seen this, it’s something i’ve been meaning to watch for ages. I didn’t realise it had such a good cast either.

    • Thanks! This is a great movie and if you like Paul Thomas Anderson’s work you’ll like this. The cast is pretty great and I think Burt Reynolds was robbed of an Oscar that year.

  2. I’m honestly not sure I can handle this movie, but I’ll probably try to see it eventually. I do like a lot of the cast and I generally like movies set in the 70s. I really like PTA and I’m really excited for Inherent VIce next year.

    • There’s actually not too much sex and nudity and the film never becomes exploitive. This has the feel of a Martin Scorsese movie and I think you’ll really enjoy it. PTA is an amazing director and I heard he got Joaquin Phoenix to star in Inherent Vice. Thanks for commenting.

  3. Great write up buddy!!

  4. Excellent review! I’ve watched some of this and was amazed at PTA precise depiction of that time. That said the overall subject matter just pushes me away in the end. Just not my thing.

    • Thanks! I can see the subject being off-putting. Anderson really does take the audience back to the 70s just like be brought the audience to the early 1900s oil town in There Will Be Blood.

  5. Great review and a great film!

    • Thanks! Paul Thomas Anderson is a great director.

  6. Just a classic and one of the best movies from Anderson. Don’t know how much that actually means, but still, it’s just a wonderful movie that you can watch time and time again no matter what. Solid review.

    • Thanks! It is a great film and shows how great of a director Anderson is. I felt like watching it again once I finished it.

  7. Great review here, CK. Didn’t realize PTA was only 26 when he made this. Makes me wonder what the hell I’m doing with my life 😀

    • Thanks! Haha, it made me think about my own life as well!

      Anderson based the film off of a short he made, and I was really impressed about how he directed the film.

  8. One of my all time faves. Anderson is throwing nothing but strikes in this film, it’s awesome. The cast is great, too, as you say. Nice choice and good review CK!

    • Thanks! Anderson hits all the right notes here. He always seems to bring out the best in actors, even Adam Sandler.

  9. Fabulous movie and another I haven’t seen in way too long!

    • This is a great movie for sure. Once I finished it I immediately wanted to watch it again.

  10. I like your Scorsese meets Altman description. That seems apt. However, I don’t think that the storylines are juggled as well as you (and clearly many others) believe. I felt like it was about nothing at the end of it. That’s not to say I didn’t notice the character’s different journeys, maybe I just didn’t care or didn’t buy in completely. For example, I wasn’t sold on Dirk’s downturn nearer the end of the film. Reading your review I can get the sense why other people like it so much. Its too bad that I clearly didn’t see the same movie.

    • *SPOILERS*

      It’s okay, I can see your viewpoint. I think Anderson’s next film, Magnolia (which is my favorite by him) has a stronger narrative, but I think Boogie Nights is still a great and very complex film. I felt that Dirk’s fall was done very well, though I feel Jack might have been a little too accepting at the end. I do have the urge to see this one again. Thanks for commenting.

  11. Nice review and a great film. I think it’s the PT Anderson film that I’d most want to watch repeatedly. Pretty funny in places, too.

    • Thanks! PTA sure is a great director. I prefer Magnolia, There Will Be Blood, and The Master a little bit more than this but it’s still a fantastic movie. It really has a Tarantino vibe to it.

  12. Awesome review. Boogie Nights is one of my alltime favourite movies.

    • Thanks! Boogie Nights is a great movie and is an all time classic. PTA is a phenomenal director.

  13. Great review. I absolutely love this film. I’m a massive fan of Anderson and I’ve enjoyed all of his film but this is probably my favourite. It’s an absolute riot from beginning to end. Wahlberg is not an actor I like most of the time, but he’s magnificent here.

    • Thanks! I’m a big PTA fan myself. Magnolia’s my favorite by him, but this definitely is a fantastic film. I have similar feeling about Wahlberg but he was great here.

  14. Paul Thomas Anderson is a visionary director and this is his greatest work. Great write up!

    • Thanks! Magnolia’s still my favorite from him, but I still loved this one. I only have to see Hard Eight to finish his filmography.

  15. A great review! Boogie Nights is one of my favourite films and really showed that Mark Wahlberg is more than singing with The Funky Bunch and wearing tight underwear. The cast list is great.I really love the performances by Philip Seymour Hoffman and Heather Graham. I love how there are several storylines going on at the same time, so you’re always interested in someone’s story. I highly recommend it 🙂

    • Thanks! It really is a classic. My favorite PTA film is Magnolia, but I really do love all his films. He may just be the best director working today.

      • Sorry for the delay in my replying, I’m still getting used to WordPress! I haven’t seen Magnolia so I have added it to my Lovefilm list 🙂

  16. […] 4. Boogie Nights […]

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