JOE's Film Flashback... Boogie Nights (1997)
JOE's Spoiler Series... Boogie Nights
Welcome to JOE's Film Flashback, where we take you behind the scenes of some of the finest motion pictures ever made. This is your *SPOILER ALERT* warning, no more excuses now.
Ready? Then follow us as we find out all there is know about Boogie Nights.
Title: Boogie Nights
Director: Paul Thomas Anderson
Irish release date: February 27th, 1998
Worldwide box office: $43,085,873
Irish Certificate Rating: 18
Tag Line: 'Everyone has one special thing.'
Plot's it all about?
Before we get into that, Boogie Nights is a masterpiece. It announced Paul Thomas Anderson as the most important filmmaker on the planet, and it's the reason why you no longer see the words 'Marky' and 'Mark' in the same sentence anymore.
Anderson elevates the well worn rags-to-riches-to-rags-to-redemption narrative to a piece that feels like it has never been done before, the original of its species. Wahlberg plays a waiter from a small town who makes it big in the 1970s porn industry on account of a catchy new porn title - Dirk Diggler - his massive schlong.
He falls under the wing of Burt Reynolds' adult film director, ageing porn actress (and cocaine enthusiast) Julianne Moore, and Heather Graham's Lolita-esque (or temptress in training wheels) Rollergirl.
They dance, drug and ride their way through the 1970s and into the 1980s with a bang. The bang is quite literal, provided by William H. Macy's cuckolded assistant director at a New Year's Eve party, and things go tits-up very, very quickly.
Video vs. film. Disco vs. the power ballad. Diggler vs. himself. Glam vs. kitsch. How can such a massive switch in a film's tome seem so seamless?
The cast... What a cast...
Reynolds may received a Best Supporting Actor nomination at the Academy Awards for his role as Jack Horner, but rumour has long since had it that he was bitterly unhappy with Paul Thomas Anderson's rough cut and sacked his agent as a result.
The Deliverance actor was arguably never better than in Boogie Nights, bringing a humanity and fatherly nature to a character that in anyone else's hands may seem exploitative and narcissistic.
Wahlberg's performance was underrated at the time but remains, along with his supporting turn in The Departed, as his best work.
Macy, Moore, Graham, Thomas Jane and John C. Reilly form an almost perfect ensemble cast, but it's Philip Seymour Hoffman's wounded Scotty J. that will stick with you long after the end of the credits.
The late Hoffman may only appear in a handful of scenes but what he brings to the film is unforgettable. He also worked with Anderson on Hard Eight, Magnolia, Punch-Drunk Love and The Master.
The critical reception
A score of 92% on Rotten Tomatoes does not lie.
Variety likened Anderson to the Martin Scorsese of Mean Streets: 'The link to Scorsese has other foundations. In its approach to the porn industry as a unique social milieu, with its own heroes, players and norms, “Boogie Nights” resembles “GoodFellas,” Scorsese’s chronicle of organized crime, and, to a certain extent, Altman’s cynical take on studio politics in “The Player.” All three movies document subcultures considered exotic by the mainstream, highlighting their complex duality of values: the seamy, sordid elements in combination with more humanistic and familial ones.'
Andrew Sarris from the New York Observer went further again: 'Not since the mysteriously reclusive Terrence Malick has there been such an explosion of sheer talent on the American movie scene.'
Empire, finally, compared the film favourably to Milos Forman's entertaining yet flawed 'The People Vs. Larry Flynt': 'Anderson doesn't blow it all on style over content: while Milos Forman's The People vs. Larry Flynt (which dealt with similar subject matter) looked good but didn't sound right, this develops cleverly and offers more of an eviscerating full frontal - you do see Dirk Diggler's 13-inch thwacker, rather unnecessarily in fact. Anderson delivers full-on hedonism and then makes you wrestle with what is an unsanctimonious hangover.'
What came afterwards...
Anderson followed Boogie Nights up with Magnolia, an epic sweep along the San Fernando Valley that saw Hoffman, Reilly and Macy immediately team up with the director again. While bigger in scale and less accessible than Boogie Nights, Magnolia is the better film and still Anderson's masterpiece.
Wahlberg and his 12-inch appendage (it was a dummy, stupid) went on to solid fare like The Perfect Storm and Three Kings, while there have been plenty of Happening and Max Payne-style missteps on the road to The Departed. His latest effort, The Gambler, should have stayed in Ari Gold's slush pile.
Reynolds must regretted firing that agent. He cropped up in remakes of The Longest Yards and The Dukes of Hazzard - both dreadful - and that promised career resurrection would never happen.
Moore won her first Oscar this year for Still Alice, while Hoffman died in 2014 from a drug overdose at the age of just 46.