Quick Take: Boogie Nights (1997)


So this is a movie about the porn industry in the 1970s and ’80s, and I fully expected it to be an orgy of orgies, with nudity left and right, and that I’d have to turn it off after about five minutes. And while it is a debauched movie, purposefully, there’s a surprising lack of explicit scenes here. No, Paul Thomas Anderson eschews the expected adolescent male gaze and instead focuses in on the humanity, highlighting his characters’ hopes and dreams and the myriad ways in which they’re both achieved and undermined. Mark Wahlberg gives the best performance of his life as Dirk Diggler, whose rise to and fall from stardom make up the skeleton of the movie, and who embodies the archetype of the ingenue done in by hubris. Really, the fact that I can use words like “ingenue” and “hubris” in a blurb about a movie about pornography is a dead giveaway that Boogie Nights is far more than it may at first seem.

Quicker take: I never thought I’d ever say that one of the most delightful, insightful movies I’ve ever seen was a movie about porn, but here we are.


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