How can a violent comedy about the porn industry star so many heavy hitters? Because it came out 20 years ago, that’s how! Boogie Nights was some kind of movie star breeding ground.
(Photo Credit: nme.com)
Twenty years are a long time in the movie industry. Times change; pop culture changes even quicker than that. Boogie Nights, starring Mark Wahlberg and a cavalcade of future stars, came out 20 years ago, in October of 1997. It was a well reviewed movie at the time. Now though? It’s an uncomfortable, comedic romp thanks to the heights these actors have since reached.
The plot is simple. Wahlberg is a young man with specific talents. He is courted by a porn movie producer, played by Burt Reynolds. Wahlberg joins the porn game and becomes the industry’s biggest star. He even creates his own stage name, Dirk Diggler.
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From there, Diggler has high hopes. He wants to “act” in these “films.” He and Reynolds’ character make an action porn series, along with young and thin sidekick John C. Reilly. Wahlberg’s rise is just a quick as his fall though. He falls victim to all the perks of being the biggest star in porn. He becomes rich and “famous”, buys a new house and new car, and becomes addicted to drugs.
The story doesn’t have as sad of an ending as one would expect. Diggler is able to turn things around, sort of. It’s a blur of a tale, though the movie extends past two and a half hours. It’s a weird bit of director trickery by Paul Thomas Anderson (I know!) that a movie that long can feel like it moves too fast. We go from Diggler winning every porn award there is to being kicked out of Reynolds’ mansion within the span of an eye blink. Of course, that is slightly the point. There is no reason to linger on his success. That isn’t the interesting part of his tale.
Wahlberg is in rare form in that he manages to be a bad actor, because he is supposed to be kind of bad, though no one can tell if it is totally on purpose. He is wild and campy and silly, though is that a young Wahlberg, or is that him making his character a bad porn actor? No one can be sure! We get the same glimpse of Reilly, as well as smaller outputs from Don Cheadle and Julianne Moore. And then there’s the creepy hanger-on played by Philip Seymour Hoffman, as well as the doomed stagehand played by William H. Macy. This movie had a bevy of heavy hitters before they emerged. In other words, Boogie Nights was a breeding ground for stars. And Reynolds, the veteran, was on-point.
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Throughout the film, Diggler tries to release a record, backed up by Reilly’s guitar. There is a drug deal gone wrong. There is a person named Johnnie Doe. Cheadle gets denied a bank loan, not because he is black (which is what I was pre-cringing for), but because he was in porn. This movie had it all, set atop the filthiest baseline, though there is no real sex appeal that it relies on. Sex is business. Wahlberg and Reynolds are businessmen on different sides of the camera.
Don’t watch this movie all in one sitting. Again, it’s too long, though the plot carries well. Watch it in pieces, enjoying each step made by movie stars before they were stars, wondering what each thinks of their old role. We already know Wahlberg regrets being in the film. I’m sure everyone else is secretly proud of it.
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Todd Salem is a Contributing Editor at BuzzChomp. He’s also the New York Giants Lead Writer at Pro Football Spot, a Staff Writer for NFL Spinzone, and a Featured Columnist at College Sports Madness, among others. Follow him on Twitter.
Additional Boogie Nights photo courtesy of Twitter.com