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1977: In a club. porn director Jack Horner (Burt Reynolds) discovers 17
year young Eddie Adams (Mark Wahlberg), who has an amazing 13-inch schlong
- prime porn material. And since Eddie, or Dirk Diggler, as he calls
himself before oong, also has the stamina to get through a porn-shoot
effortlessly, he soon becomes a porn star, and Jack Horner's golden goose.
For the porn people, the late 1970's were a party on end, there was no
Aids-threat yet, plenty of pretty girls wanted to be in the business, and
the genre did even start to get some mainstreanm recognition - which is
extremely important for Jack Horner, who always sees himself as a
filmmaker first, a pornographer second.
But the 1970's were over way too soon, and only minutes before the new
decade starts, Eddie makes his first experiences with cocaine, the drug
which will soon be his downfall, and Jack is for the first time approached
to make a pornmovie direct-to-video, a medium that (according to many)
meant to be the genre's downfall.
1983: Eddie is so strung out from cocaine that he is no longer able to
perform. However, by now he's so self-obsessed that he doesn't take the
advice of Jack Horner, who has always treated him like a father, but
leaves him in anger to find success on his own ... but the world doesn't
work that way, his efforts to produce a record are nothing short of
pathetic, and then he hasn't even got the money to pay for the studio.
Soon enough, he's back out on the streets and offers everyone who's
interested to wank for them for a tenner ... but soon enough, he ends up
beaten up by a homophobic gang. And then, he and his friends Todd (Thomas
Jane) and Reed (John C.Reilly) try to sell baking powder to a drug kingpin
(Alfred Molina) ... a deal that almost works, wouldn't Todd, drugged to
the teeth, all of a sudden and without warning get trigger-happy and start
a shoot-out ... and Eddie is lucky enough to get away with his life.
Meanwhile, things for Jack Horner are not much better: His money man,
the Colonel (Robert Ridgely) has been arrested for child pornography
(something Jack never touched), and Jack himself now does meaningless and
interchangeable video fare, like the film when he drives his current star
Rollergirl (Heather Graham) around in a limo to pick up random guys to
have sex with her ... something that ends in tragedy when Jack picks up a
guy Rollergirl went to school with. Meanwhile Amber (Julianne Moore),
Jack's muse, consort and top performer - who has often co-starred with
eddie and has a soft spot for him - tries to regain custody of her kid,
but she is denied even seeing him because of her profession - which pretty
much breaks her heart ...
In the end, Eddie, as a sort of prodigal son, returns to Jack, and they
put the old team together again to make ore movies ...
Obviously, this film was inspired by the life-story of legendary porn
actor John Holmes (even if it left out some of the more bizarre and tragic
bits of his career, like that he contracted Aids but still tried to
continue his career - in Europe even after everyone in America has grown
wise to his predicament -, or his attempts to make gay porn, or his career
in crime). As a film, Boogie Nights falls into two parts, namely
the part about the 1970's, when porn was still a neverending party, and
the 1980's part, where the whole bubble bursts. Naturally, the first part
is rather boring, an overlong set-up for the actual story. It is not until
the second part that the drama really starts and the film is cut up ionto
a series of almost independent short stories. but surprisingly these
independent short stories, told in one long parallel montage, work
extremely well together and manage to paint one whole picture - something
that's totally missing from the 70's sequence, where much time is wasted
telling very little.
The second problem with the film, besides its overlong set-up, is the
ending, that simply lacks the impact the proceeding stories had and
actually seems to lead to nowhere.
Would the beginning of the film have been trimmed and instead more care
been put into the ending this film could have been great, like it is it's
a film that has its moments but also its letdowns, it's ok entertainment
and totally watchable, but it could have been so much more.
What's somewhat weird (though typical for reactionary Hollywood) is
that for a film about the porn business, there is remarkably little and
incredible tame sex in this film (though admittedly more sex than in
another film about John Holmes, Wonderland).
Somehow it seems filmmaker P.T. Anderson is not really believing in the
world he is portraying ...