Eddie Adams is a naïve young man who is ravaged by drugs and subsumed by his doppelganger, suffering an identity crisis that inflates then deflagrates his voluminous appurtenance. Director/writer Paul Thomas Anderson’s retrospective into the adult porn industry, when sexual mores loosened the Victorian knot of intimate bondage, is an ensemble tour de force imbuing each character with a humane profundity. Anderson begins the film with a beautiful three minute tracking shot through a local nightclub, the camera introducing the major players with delicate ease, a mature style of visual narration that doesn’t require a voice-over for exposition: instead, Anderson lets the story develop naturally and we visit each personage and examine their quirks and infatuations.
The basic story involves Eddie Adams, a puerile boy in search of himself, who becomes entangled in the camphor illusions and physical temptations of his desires. Endowed with very little acting ability but headstrong, he soon becomes a superstar in the porn industry, making blue films that he imagines to be more than exploitation. Mark Wahlberg infuses Eddie with just the right amount of innocence and charm, reveling in the money, girls and fashion; but he soon becomes lost in the personages of Dirk Diggler and Brock Landers, overindulging and underachieving until he is an impotent reflection. Burt Reynolds as director Jack Horner is exemplary; a Joe Sarno caricature that believes his work is more than sexploitation, which graphic sex is an elemental force of every story, and his intent is to make films…not cheap jerkoff fantasies. Julianne Moore as Amber Waves is the matriarchal force, the intrinsic glue that holds them together but she is victim to her own indulgences of drugs and estrangement from her children. The film is not concerned with the sticky details and gossip of the adult movie industry; it is about the people who inhabit this world of illegal activity and the effect of excess upon their lives. Though Anderson doesn’t exploit the narrative he does surprise with interesting and peculiar adventures: a naked odyssey that exposes the raw nerve of human nature and reveals the possible journey towards redemption. It is also a film about filmmaking, much like the cynical turbulence of Billy Wilder’s SUNSET BOULEVARD, where talking movies replaced the grand theatrics of the silent era: here, Jack Horner discovers the vulgarity of video and its uselessness as an art form and clings to his celluloid past. The fault with BOOGIE NIGHTS is the fact that the porn industry wasn’t glamorous in the 1970s and 80s; that it was still illegal and many young women where abused and assaulted on film and contracted deadly venereal diseases: to his credit, he particularly deviates from this conceit to show that indeed many where willing participants and enjoyed their careers. But the monolithic inheritance that dominates the story belongs to Dirk Diggler and his fall from grace…and his eventual rise once again.
Final Grade: (B+)