Quick Hit: Beautifully shot, deeply written, with criticism available for any aspect you wish.
Paul Thomas Anderson’s Boogie Nights is like a very large onion – no matter how many layers you peel off, there seems to be more to it. A critique on gender roles, a critique on the entertainment industry, a master class in filmmaking and acting, there’s just about everything you could ask for in a film. The story of Dirk Diggler is nothing short of great.
Let’s first take PTA’s use of the camera. Here he shows that he is truly one of the best camera showoffs in film. He has numerous sequences that are absolutely beautiful. One is a sequence where the camera dives into the water following characters into an underwater world. There are other sequences where PTA uses mirrors to reflect his main character Eddie/Dirk as he tries to get himself together before shoots. This is creative even if it’s a bit derivative – and PTA is flawless in his execution.
PTA also coaxes some terrific facial reaction shots from his characters. There’s a lot that goes into directly filming a character’s face when they see something that the camera can’t – which is used over and over in this film. That’s because, at least until the final shot in the film, Dirk’s greatest asset is held back from the screen. This is a movie that is about pornography but doesn’t reflect any sexuality – this is about the business, about filmmaking, and about the people that are involved in it. And those people’s status is lower than everyone else’s, as reflected in multiple scenes throughout the film. That’s a huge statement for a film to make, and PTA makes it effortlessly here.
Speaking of those people, this cast may be one of the best ensembles that is out there. Featuring Mark Wahlberg, Burt Reynolds, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Julianne Moore, John C. Reilly, Don Cheadle, William H. Macy, Heather Graham – the list positively extends beyond belief. Some of the standouts feature Marky Mark in what I think his best performance. I can’t picture anyone else as Eddie or Dirk, and he just fits so well into the character’s journey. William H. Macy has one of the most emasculated performances I’ve seen on screen in Little Bill, whose wife continues to cheat on him and flaunt it in his face, and Burt Reynolds has an awesome performance here that is so understated you barely notice him. He just wants to be a film director, and his ability to look at the sex that is going on and stay completely distant from it all is the same as a slaughterhouse working knocking steers in the head all day and becoming numb to it.
I could go on and on about how Rollergirl (Heather Graham) is a metaphor for how women become objects in society, how Phillip Seymour Hoffman is an example of how the gay culture was expanding to become people instead of just jokes, how Don Cheadle is an example of not just racism but masculinity and the aspects thereof, but there is literally so much in this movie that I don’t think I could cover it without truly rambling on. I love this movie.
And of course, it’s an “A+”.
For more on this film, check out IMDB.
"All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy"