Plot: What’s it about?
A few years after Paul Thomas Anderson’s debut film, Hard Eight, he set out for a much more aggressive and more mainstream type of film. While the theme was still a bit of a touchy subject, the cast was more diverse and more widely-known. Three members from his first film “made the cut” to be in this, his second feature. John C. Reily, Phillip Baker Hall and Phillip Seymour Hoffman have all made appearances in all of Anderson’s movies, and it shows a lot about the director who stays true to his actors who have helped make him the director he is today. While it’s no secret that “Boogie Nights” is based on the real-life adult film legend, John Holmes, it steers away from any stereotypes and does a fine job of telling it’s own story. While the cast is big, the most noteable star is Burt Reynolds, now aging and not the Hollywood hot shot he used to be, he takes it down several notches and even managed to snag an Oscar nomination for his role as Jack Horner, the director who thinks that his adult films have some sort of “Orwellian” quality in terms of content.
The main star, of course, is Mark Whalberg who plays the part of Eddie Adams who later chooses to abandon his Christian name for one that is “more the part”…Dirk Diggler. Leave it to Anderson to even show us his name in blue neon lights…like it was sent down from heaven as a godsend! Diggler, who is discovered at a local nightclub by Jack Horner (Burt Reynolds), has a rather “specific” quality that is benefitial to the adult film industry. I won’t go into many details, but you connect the dots. Diggler is somewhat of an untapped resource, who is recruited into the “glamorous” world of adult films, and things start to change for Jack and his whole group. Diggler, who has brought the adult film industry to it’s knees, it seems, is just what the industry needed to make films exciting again. Toghether with his friend and fellow co-star, Reed Rothchild (John C. Reily), the films are more popular than ever. And so it goes…we meet some other members of the cast, each with their own little subplot, but the most in depth belongs to Amber Waves (Julianne Moore) who, despite being an adult film star and drug addict, is struggling to get custody of her kids. We meet Rollergirl, perhaps the most popular character from the film, and she is just that…In the midst of the tail end of the disco era, she has taken to roller-skating her way through life. She never takes her skates off (though she takes off everything else) throughout the entire movie. A high school dropout, Rollergirl has found a new home and family with Horner and his crew, and considers Amber her surrogate “mother”.
Identity crisis, it seems, are a common theme in Anderson’s movies, as Buck (Don Cheadle) is constantly striving to get away from his adult film star status by trying new and somewhat exotic looks. The phase we see him in during the movie is his “cowboy” phase. Scotty J. (Phillip Seymour Hoffman), the homosexual sound guy, instantly falls for Dirk, though with Dirk being straight, he constantly has to hide his true feelings for fear of being isolated and alienated. There’s Little Bill (William H. Macy) who loves his work, but his wife can’t stop sleeping with other men, sometimes in front of a group of people, and needless to say…he isn’t taking it very well. And lastly, we have the Colonel. The Colonel is the producer of the films, and hence the supplier of the money. Though limited to a very few scenes, we get a strange feeling about him…
So this brings us to what is really happening (with Anderson’s movies, it sometimes takes a while). Aside from the initial spotlight that is forced upon Dirk Diggler, all can’t go well forever. We see Dirk and the gang in their hayday, living it up, getting drunk and doing all sorts of drugs. Truly life in the fast lane. But we also see a change in the society in general. As the 70’s draw to a close, the 80’s start with a bang (literally). As the glimmer of Dirk’s glow starts to fade, so does the entire industry. Gone are the big budget movies, the film is being replaced with videotape and there is a certain “laisez-faire” attitude about the whole industry. Where the film really comes alive is the downward spiral that we see the group go through, especially Dirk. Once the nice guy from Torrence, he has become a drug-addicted, hot-tempered, arrogant jerk. The stardom has changed Dirk, who has exhausted his resources and now only looks forward to where his next shipment of drugs is coming from. Though extremely rough at times, and while the subject matter may be questionable, this is one of the finer movies that I’ve had the chance to see.
Video: How does it look?
“Boogie Nights” uses a variety of footage to showcase the somewhat unique situations. For instance, the slow panning opening shot is instantly lit up by the neon lights of the late 70’s and as the movie progresses, the darker in tone and physical form the film becomes. The 2.40:1 VC-1 HD transfer has never looked better with detail having been bumped up a few notches and colors seem to jump off the screen. As was standard with the time frame of the film, there are plenty of orange and brown hues (just take a look at the box to illustrate my point) and there’s even a 16mm segment in there that purposefully looks bad. By and large, the entire transfer looks as glossed over as a, well, porn film and I mean that in the most sincere of ways. Fans of “Boogie Nights” will no doubt be happy that this film has made the journey to Blu-ray and it’s no better showcased than right here.
Audio: How does it sound?
The benefit of having movies in HD is not only the improved picture quality, but the sound as well. Thankfully “Boogie Nights” does benefit from a very nice-sounding Dolby TrueHD soundtrack that really makes the most of the late 70’s and early 80’s songs. Again, the opening sequence is a great example of surround sound. The slow moving picture sounds like a circus in slow motion, but we’re then greeted with the opening song “Best of My Love”. As the film progresses, we get a sampling from the latter disco songs as well as some of the early 80’s music from Night Ranger, Electric Light Orchestra and Three Dog Night just to name a few. Big soundtracks are somewhat hit and miss, but in “Boogie Nights” it’s certainly a hit, for sure. Dialogue also sounds great and though the movie was set in the 70’s, the movie benefits from the 6 channel soundtrack used for this TrueHD mix.
Supplements: What are the extras?
New Line had a couple of versions of “Boogie Nights” and thankfully this Blu-ray release ports over all of the supplements from the more special of the two editions. The good news is that we have two audio commentaries, but the bad is that they’re the same ones and are nearly ten years old. But alas the commentary with director P.T. Anderson gives a lot of insight into the production, as well as weaving a tapestry of profanity that would rival the father on A Christmas Story. If you can outlast the blasts of the f word, then you’ll find a wealth of information on all aspects of the production of Boogie Nights. A second commentary sees the return of Anderson, who now acts as an interviewer of sorts, asking various cast members about their roles and the film as a whole. This track could have been a train wreck, but it turns out to be excellent thanks to Anderson’s preparedness. Also included is a selection of ten deleted scenes which cover all previously available scenes, as well as a bonus never before seen sequence. So, all your bases are covered when it comes to deleted scenes. Each scene comes equipped with optional commentary by Anderson, who gives us an idea of why the scene was taken out of the film. The music video for Michael Penn’s “Try” is located on the disc also and offers optional commentary from Anderson, who directed the video of course. If you want more music, the disc offers the chance to skip right to select songs from the film which is cool. In The John C. Reilly Files you’ll find a trio of outtakes featuring the Anderson regular and master character actor, which should please fans of his work. The original trailer is also shown.