Viking Night: Boogie Nights
By Bruce Hall
January 8, 2013
Boogie Nights has a message for you, and that is to stay away from hardcore pornography and illicit drugs. Sort of, anyway. Paul Thomas Anderson’s sprawling, over-long period piece takes a look under the hood of the adult film industry of the 1970s. It’s not what you think, though. Yes, there are a few Cinemax-quality depictions of graphic sex, but contextually the film is more interested in following the lives of a handful of actors, from their humble beginnings on the casting couch, to the height of success.
And of course, there’s the inevitable crash-and-burn, but with a twist.
Boogie Nights begins with a wonderfully elaborate tracking shot, bookended by the film’s glowing pink logo on a neon marquee, and a dirty old man eye fucking a busboy in a nightclub. In between, we meet most of the film’s main characters as they get the party started. It’s Saturday night, and porn king Jack Horner (Burt Reynolds) is treating his stable of sexy stars to a night on the town. His leading lady Amber Waves (Julianne Moore) and her protege Roller Girl (Heather Graham) are in attendance. Reed Rothchild (John C Reilly), Buck Swope (Don Cheadle) and Becky Barnett (Nicole Ari Parker) are killing it on the dance floor.
And the busboy in question is Eddie Adams (Mark Wahlberg), a confused looking lad who has big dreams and an even bigger...um...we’ll get to that in a second...
Eddie’s father ignores him, his mother verbally abuses him, and college is out of the question, because neither one of his parents is exactly the intellectual type. He has a big heart, but he’s a dopey man-child, determined to make a living with his junk. Yes, Eddie’s empty mop-haired melon is starkly contrasted by his massive personal package. So despite his humble past and unsophisticated nature, he knows that he’s got at least 13 things going for him, and is determined to make the best of it.
Luckily, business has been good to Frank, and he’s been looking for the Next Big Thing. After chatting Eddie up a bit, Jack sends Roller Girl ahead to...er...”soften” him up...before swooping in for the Big Pitch. With his two sirens at his side, Jack fills the boy’s head with visions of wealth, hot sex and unlimited partying. It’s just what Eddie needs to hear, and within a day he’s part of the Horner Stable. He proves to be natural born for porn, and soon he is the most decorated stud in the industry. Eddie is now known far and wide by his stage name...
But Jack dreams of making porno flicks with stories, with heart - with pathos! Dirk and Reed - two big dumb peas from the same big dumb pod - are on board with this, and together they create Brock Landers, a suave private dick who spends slightly more time slapping women around (with one appendage or another) than he does solving cases. Even so, the character is wildly successful and this enables the gang to reach the very heights of fame and stardom they’d always imagined. Jack fulfills his promise to Dirk - everyone’s rich, everyone’s getting laid, and the party never, ever stops. Of course there’s a price to pay for all of this. The second half of any cautionary tale is where everything invariably falls apart and as the ‘80s approach, so does the Reckoning.