Set in 1977, back when sex was safe, pleasure was a business and business was booming, idealistic porn producer Jack Horner aspires to elevate his craft to an art form. Horner discovers Eddie Adams, a hot young talent working as a busboy in a nightclub, and welcomes him into the extended family of movie-makers, misfits and hangers-on that are always around. Adams' rise from nobody to a celebrity adult entertainer is meteoric, and soon the whole world seems to know his porn alter ego, "Dirk Diggler". Now, when disco and drugs are in vogue, fashion is in flux and the party never seems to stop, Adams' dreams of turning sex into stardom are about to collide with cold, hard reality.
Fantastic bravado from a 27-year-old filmmaker who has laid-back wit, amazingly fluid camera technique and no qualms about borrowing from the best. Following the ''Nashville'' blueprint, Paul Thomas Anderson explores the quaint customs and inchoate longings within an insular pop subculture, this time the sleazy, druggy universe of 70's porn. From spectacular party sequences to clear proof that the party is over, this busy, wildly colorful film has no trouble holding interest -- far from it. But its extravagant length is a tactical mistake, since it promises bigger ideas than Mr. Anderson delivers. Mark Wahlberg gives a terrifically appealing performance in the story's tricky central role. Prominently featured in the fine ensemble cast are Burt Reynolds, doing his best and most suavely funny work in years as a porn auteur, and Julianne Moore as his ethereal, vaguely tragic star. Minor details, like her hilariously bad porn acting or the flashy period costumes, are an evil treat. — Janet Maslin
1997-10-08 | Janet Maslin | Read the New York Times Review of Boogie Nights