Twenty-five years ago today, Boogie Nights was released. Though his second feature (Hard Eight was released a year earlier), this was the film that put writer-director not just as a leading filmmaker of his generation, but as a veritable auteur.
As most know, Boogie Nights swirls around Dirk Diggler, a kind teen from the Los Angeles suburbs. Well-meaning and well-endowed, he finds a surrogate father in Jack Horner (Oscar nominee Burt Reynolds) and becomes a major player in the porn industry. Horner’s gang of porn stars and craftspeople serves as a family unit for Diggler, including Brock Landers (John C. Reilly), Rollergirl (Heather Graham), Scotty J. (Philip Seymour Hoffman), Bill “Little Bill” Thompson (William H. Macy), Becky Barnett (Nicole Ari Parker), Buck Swope (Don Cheadle), and Julianne Moore, a revelation as Amber Waves.
Boogie Nights is an opus, covering the glitz and the sleaze of the 1970s and 1980s (and watch out for a major shot in the arm from Alfred Molina!) and Anderson nails the period details of set, costume, and music. And, yes, prosthetics. But the most important organ in the film is its heart. Anderson imbues Boogie Nights with true compassion and little judgement.