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BOOGIE NIGHTS:  SPECIAL EDITION

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Mark Wahlberg, Burt Reynolds, Julianne Moore, Don Cheadle, William H. Macy, Heather Graham, John C. Reilly, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Phillip Baker Hall, Thomas Jane, Alfred Molina, Luis Guzman, Melora Walters, Robert Ridgely
Director: Paul Thomas Anderson
Audio: English Dolby Digital 5.1, English Dolby Surround, French Dolby Digital 5.1
Video: Widescreen 2.35:1 Anamorphic Transfer
Studio: New Line Cinema
Features: See Review
Length: 155 Minutes
Release Date: August 29, 2000

Film ****

If you asked me to name any movies that exhilarate me with each single viewing, I can assure you which movie would top that list. That special movie is Boogie Nights; my choice for the best movie of 1997. Not since Pulp Fiction had a single motion picture, which ran for more than two and a half hours, astounded me with sheer brilliance. I still remember my trip to the theater to see as if it were last night. I had to travel an hour away from my hometown just to see it, and it was worth every mile and gallon of gas. The theater wasn’t full, but had a good amount of people, and then the movie came on, backed up by some of the best theater quality surround sound I had ever heard. And all through the viewing, I was absolutely glued to my seat, feeling a sense of joy through every moment of the film.

Though it may seem as he was heavily inspired by Martin Scorsese, Paul Thomas Anderson certainly gets my vote as genius filmmaker, and this was only his second feature film, following the small indie gem Hard Eight, which was released early in the same year. He does open the film with a glorious steadicam shot that covers about every single one of the main characters in a nightclub. This scene is slightly reminiscent of the famous steadicam shot in GoodFellas that follows Ray Liotta and Lorraine Brocco through a kitchen and into a nightclub, but Anderson’s opening scene is no doubt more alive than many a film’s opening shot. We are introduced, at a glorious pace, to the central characters in the film, particularly the two characters that result creating the movie’s strongest bond; adult filmmaker Jack Horner (Burt Reynolds, in the performance of the decade), and a busboy at the nightclub named Eddie Adams (Mark Wahlberg). Horner sees a star in Eddie simply by giving a glance at him in the nightclub. Eddie is a 17-year-old who works two jobs, and takes the bus from Torrance to work at the club in the San Fernando Valley. By that gesture, it’s clear Eddie is attracted to super stardom, and dreams of becoming a star himself someday.

Then, following a very harsh fight with his mother, Eddie runs away, and goes immediately to Jack, who is already proven himself as a father figure. Other unique characters that Eddie meets include Amber Waves (Julianne Moore), who is a mother-figure to just about everyone that needs some kind of love, Reed Rothchild (John C. Reilly), Eddie’s soon-to-be on-screen sidekick, Little Bill (William H. Macy), a crew member who hides a serious depression, Buck Swope (Don Cheadle), a cowboy-loving actor who dreams of opening a stereo shop, Scotty J. (Phillip Seymour Hoffman), a gay crew member who hides an attraction to Eddie, and Rollergirl (Heather Graham), the stimulating siren of the stars who never takes her skates off for any reason. Soon, Eddie is taken under by this sort of surrogate family-like atmosphere, and changes his name to Dirk Diggler.

One of the most interesting aspects of Boogie Nights is the way it illustrates how the porn industry perceived itself in the 70s. During this period, people associated with the porn industry considered themselves parallel with that of regular movie stars. Adult films could still be consider these films a sort of cheap thrill, but the filming process was taken more seriously, and as shown in the movie, actors took there characters very seriously, even though all they were doing for their movies was saying a few sentences of dialogue before going into the sex. So it’s clear that the film’s story takes a tragic turn when it’s announced on New Year’s Eve, 1979, that videotape is the new source for adult movies. Suddenly, everything starts to go down the drain.

After a long streak of success, frequent awards, and acclaim, Dirk and his friends turn to drugs, and use them at a rapid pace. At one point, Dirk and Reed leave the adult industry to pursue a music career, while they’re still coked out of their minds. Amber fights to have custody of her child, which she no doubt abandoned. Buck attempts to get a loan to finance his future stereo shop, but is sadly denied because of his affiliation with the porn industry.

Now comes the films final 45 minutes, which is truly the film’s high point of brilliance. Anderson simultaneously shows several tragic acts happen to some of the film’s principle characters. Jack and Rollergirl attempt to film a sexual escapade with a man chosen at random, and in the back of a limo, which results in emotions of pure rage. At the same time, Dirk, now turning to male prostitution, is hideously set up by some homophobic men who mistake him for a homosexual. Also, Buck finds himself in the middle of a robbery at a donut shop that ends in a rather shocking and bizarre way.

Following those scenes, is the film’s most exhilarating moment, where Dirk, Reed, and a fellow friend and cokehead (Thomas Jane), attempt to rip off a rich playboy, by selling him cocaine in the form of baking soda. Three songs are played in this scene, Night Ranger’s Sister Christian, Rick Springfield’s Jesse’s Girl, and Nena’s 99 Balloons, most of which are played in their entirety. I still get goose bumps every time I watch this scene, because after all that is happened before in the movie, you simply do not expect to end up in moment like this. I consider it one of the most brilliantly directed scenes in the history of motion pictures.

Boogie Nights is a film that should be experienced by all film lovers. Everything from the acting to the directing, to the soundtrack of countless classics from the 70s and the 80s. Filled with terrific camera work, and enormous insight to the time period, which it is set in, get ready for an uncompromising, thrilling masterpiece of a film.  With the amount of drugs and alcohol present in the film one would wonder how no one ever was arrested for a DUI. Granted DUI laws were different in the 70s. If arrested for drinking and driving, Columbus DUI lawyer would be able to assist with the case.

Video ***1/2

One of the main reasons for this 2-disc reissue was to provide the film with a better transfer. The original disc did include some moments of color bleeding, and this disc has resolved that problem with a better resolution. The anamorphic presentation shines through most of the viewing, but I did notice some graininess close to the end of the film, which is way it doesn’t get a four star rating. Otherwise, a very well done transfer.

Audio ****

The original Boogie Nights disc had one of the best audio transfer I had ever heard, and there is absolutely no difference that I can tell between the quality of this disc and the original. This version, however, does include an English Dolby Surround track, which wasn’t included on the original disc. Music comes through wonderfully and lively; the 5.1 presentation perfectly picks up just about every possible sound. Remarkable as usual from one of the top DVD studios.

Features ****

Actually, not a whole lot was added to this disc as one might expect, but since I gave the original Boogie Nights disc four stars in this department, any additions of extras are certainly a warm welcome. This time around, New Line has added a second commentary, along with the original P.T. Anderson commentary that accompanied to original disc. This commentary includes Anderson and numerous members of the cast including Mark Wahlberg, John C. Reilly, William H. Macy, Julianne Moore, Heather Graham, Don Cheadle, and Melora Walters. Another interesting feature is the John C. Reilly Files, a compilation of deleted scenes and outtakes involving Reilly’s unique approach to acting. There is also a new deleted scene that is included with the original nine deleted scenes that were found on the original disc.

Summary:

Paul Thomas Anderson’s Boogie Nights deserves a place in history as one of our greatest films. A thrilling epic masterpiece of a movie that doesn’t come along that often. A film that is sure to surprise, involve you, and make you extremely entertained at the same time.