Boogie Nights Film Review

Heather Graham as Rollergirl

Well, what can I say? Fifteen years too late watching the now cult classic that is Boogie Nights. OK, so in all fairness, I was three years old when it was first released and an 18 rated film where a woman aptly named Rollergirl kicks someone in the face with her roller blades probably wasn’t the film to send me off to sleep at night.

So, what is Boogie Nights about? In case you aren’t sure, the film is set in 1977 and tells the story of 17 year old Dirk Diggler (Mark Wahlberg) and his rise to fame in the 70’s porn industry. Several other characters are important in this story, such as the cocaine addicted Amber Waves (Julianne Moore) who likes to think of herself as a mother to Dirk and Rollergirl (Heather Graham) but in reality is estranged from her real son, Andrew. At the center of these three is the fantastic, enigmatic, loveable Burt Reynolds as Jack Horner, a successful porn director.

What surprised me about this film was the dark elements which make up most of the story but the quite upbeat title which suggests this is a whimsical tale of 70’s fashion, lifestyle and obviously, erotic cinema of the time. When watching the film three things stood out to me: the soundtrack, Mark Wahlberg and the running time. Two positives, one, perhaps, negative. Lets begin with Mark Wahlberg. At the time of making he was just 26 years old and relatively early into his career, and he is absolutely mesmerizing as the young, naive and easily swayed Dirk. We see his character change from the impressionable young man he starts out as to an angry, diva porn star to a desperate drug addicted man and back again. These changes mean the audience love him, feel sympathetic for him and perhaps at times think ‘what a dick’, various responses which director Anderson cleverly manages to garner from the films spectators. This role for Wahlberg is one that to me, is a standout performance in his 20+ year career and for people who perhaps feel that in recent years, he has gone for the easier, blockbuster ‘Hollywood’ roles should see this, and see his unique talent (no pun intended).

The running time for this film is 155 minutes, a shockingly long amount of time for a film where actually, not a lot happens. There are about three stand out moments of ‘oh shit’ in the film and they all happen within twenty minutes of each other, in the final section of the story. Without ruining the story, for those of you who have not seen it, they are all of quite extreme violence. But saying that, this is not a film for the faint hearted nor easily offended. Yes, there is drug use, sex and moments of brutal violence, but none of it feels unnecessarily placed within the story.

The soundtrack in Boogie Nights is one of the most impressive and most enjoyable elements within the film, giving it that 70s feel which immerses you as an audience member and gets you dancing in your seat (as well as having a giggle at the actors dancing on screen). Overall, I liked the film but I don’t know if it is what you could call enjoyable, due to the third quarter of the story. Anderson directs the film at a slow pace but never lets it drag (I never felt like it should of ended earlier than it did) and makes every central character loveable, including the sensational Burt Reynolds who is superb as the lovable Jack Horner.

4/5 For a great story but long running time.


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