At the midway point of the Chicago Critics Film Festival, the Chicago Film Critics Association gave us moviegoers a special treat. They showed a beautiful 35mm print of Paul Thomas Anderson’s 1997 triumph “Boogie Nights.” Music Box Theatre was completely sold out for this screening, and it was great to see a packed theater share their enjoyment of such an incredible movie.
“Boogie Nights” stars Mark Wahlberg as Eddie Adams, a well-endowed teenager who wants to make a name for himself. After meeting Jack Horner, a pornographic movie director masterfully portrayed by Burt Reynolds, Eddie takes on a new name fit for a star: Dirk Diggler. Dirk and Jack soon become the kings of the adult film industry, but the higher the men climb, the harder they fall. As the ‘70s become the ‘80s, the empire they built begins to crumble and Dirk’s star power withers away.
“Boogie Nights” has a stellar ensemble cast. I do not want the rest of my review to consist only of name-dropping, but know that any name you read in the credits makes the most of their screen time. Whether it is two and a half minutes or the full two and a half hours, every single actor gives a hell of a performance. I loved all the actors in this movie, but I want to highlight my two favorites.
Reynolds won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor at the 70th Academy Awards for good reason. He is a pleasure to watch, and his quest to get the public to see the art in porn is quite something to behold. The way he plays his part with such seriousness, regardless of the ridiculous dialogue or situations, really shows his prowess as an actor. His performance in “Boogie Nights” is easily my favorite in the movie and also the crowning achievement of his career.
My other favorite actor is in this movie only 10 minutes, but in those 600 seconds, he gives one of the most memorable performances I have ever seen. Alfred Molina plays Rahad Jackson, an eccentric drug dealer that Dirk and his friends plan to rob near the end of the movie. Clad in a mustache, bathrobe and gold chain, Molina delivers a show-stealing performance. The editing and sound make his scene unbelievably tense, and Molina’s gleeful jamming out to his mixtapes add hilarity to this wonderful sequence. If you watch this movie for nothing else but Molina, I would not blame you. His short performance in this epic is easily in my top five favorite performances ever.
“Boogie Nights” is not just a wonderfully talented ensemble — the writing and direction really stand out as some of Anderson’s best work. While not my favorite Paul Thomas Anderson movie — “Punch-Drunk Love” will always have my heart — this is a close second. The movie has so many creative and hilarious lines about porn. Anderson’s dialogue is chock-full of one-liners and absurd bits, but the majority of it is played so straight that the dialogue becomes even funnier. Anderson writes with such creativity and uniqueness, and this movie is an excellent showcase of that.
This is such a pretty movie, with excellent camerawork. The colors and cinematography evoke the essence of the ‘70s so well. I was not alive for the ‘70s, or even 1997 when this movie came out, but “Boogie Nights” makes me feel like I was truly there.
Seeing this movie in a sold-out theater was an excellent experience. Beyond just the look of seeing it on film, having an audience to laugh and cry with is always a welcome addition. The atmospheric feeling of a crowd can make an already enjoyable movie so much better. Feeling the discomfort of the audience during pivotal scenes makes them more bearable than when I watch this movie alone.
There were two moments when the audience cheered. The first was when Phillip Seymour Hoffman entered the movie. That felt really good. He was a talent gone too soon, and hearing the love they have for him made me smile. The second was at the end of Wahlberg’s closing monologue. If you have seen the movie before you will know exactly what I am referring to, but if you haven’t, just know it is exactly what the 155 minute runtime has been building up to.
“Boogie Nights” is a superb movie. Every single performance in this movie is at least one person’s favorite. The soundtrack will have you tapping along and inspire you to listen to ‘70s greatest hits on your next commute. I do not know if I can recommend you watch this with your parents, but this is a movie I think best viewed with a group of friends. You will laugh, cry,
cringe and become enamored with the magic and charm of “Boogie Nights.”
I am giving “Boogie Nights” five out of five stars.