Film Review: Paul Thomas Anderson, “Boogie Nights” (1997)

The film follows Mark Wahlberg who plays the new young stud who takes the 70’s porn scene by storm, subsequently taking the film into the 80’s.

boogienights1Don’t worry – it isn’t as seedy as it sounds! Paul Thomas Anderson expertly directs the story to delve into life’s tragedy, whilst managing to also boarder on comedy as well of course it’s also a story of excess. Wahlberg portrays a character who although somewhat humble on first encounters, is corrupted by the world in which he lives; he has money but he wants more, he tries drugs and he wants more, and he has fame but none of it’s enough. He becomes very arrogant due to his success, making demands on set which result in him losing his job; just the beginning of his downward spiral of decline.

Despite the vibrancy there is an underlying seriousness about the film. At the heart of the film is a family drama, where despite all of the tragedy and fall outs that occur in the duration of the film, they always come back together; they’re a family. The themes and direction of the story create a film which is extremely cinematic, especially evident in comparison to other films focussing on the sex industry, most notably ‘The Look of Love’ focussing on the British porn industry – a film which is undeniably televisual.

The ensemble cast is made up of consistently brilliant actors all capable of giving the story heart. The characters in the film are all likeable, – characters who as a viewer you enjoy the company of. We like the central character (Wahlberg) and are emotionally invested in his journey, making it all the more engaging to witness his rise and fall in the industry and in his own life, where he eventually becomes addicted to cocaine and turns to crime to fund his lifestyle. Due to the audience’s investment in his character we feel disappointed when he succumbs to arrogance and struggles to keep himself grounded, and gratifying when he finally redeems himself towards the end of the feature. The film serves as a warning against the excesses and consequences – drug addiction, arrogance and the estrangement of family that can often result from fame on a broader level.

Perfectly captured by the music and visual design is the psychedelic glamour of the 70’s and 80’s. The film of course isn’t perfect, with the inclusion of numerous plot points including Eddie’s psychotic family, and two murders immediately followed by a suicide which are all established but then are merely glossed over and passed with little development giving the impression that they’re incidental/unimportant.

Overall Boogie Nights is a very good film with interesting and compelling characters, brilliant performances by all involved and an honest commentary on fame, as well as an impressive rendition of the glamour that was the 70’s. I give this film an impressive 8 out of 10.

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