Tim’s review published on Letterboxd:
I can't believe that I left this one for last on my long and drawn out PTA binge. I'm ashamed that I hadn't seen this one sooner because, turns out... I fucking love Boogie Nights. Note, this would have been an awesome companion piece to play alongside Magnolia and I'm an idiot for not even considering that.
Anyways, wow, wow, wow, Boogie Nights is outright contagious. PTA sure does have a knack for making 2-3 hour long films feel as if they went by in the blink of eye. Boogie Nights might be over 2 and a half hours but it does not feel that length at all. Which isn't surprising because the narrative momentum in Boogie Nights is extremely brisk, something that is complimented remarkably well by Anderson's spellbinding, sprawling, and sporadic camera movement. The introduction scene alone from the opening credits, is like being dragged along a roller coaster ride while someone plays an 70s best hits compilation record.
So, Boogie Nights is about a young man named Eddie Adams, no scratch that, Dirk Diggler. This is the story that chronicles the rise and fall of legendary porn star, Dirk Diggler. He's young, charismatic, good looking, and most of all, he's got a name that cuts deep and leaves one hell of an impression. Of course, on that criteria alone, it wasn't long before he shot to the top of the mountain. But with fame comes a lot of responsibility. And when you're a 17 year old high school dropout, turned pornography sensation overnight, with added parental issues, responsibility is likely an afterthought. Along the way, Dirk meets a plethora of colorful characters and the story takes the viewer on a ride through their little world.
Boogie Nights features a seminal cast starring in a rich gallery of unique and compelling characters. There isn't a single bad or subpar performance in this film. Mark Wahlberg delivers an exceptional performance as Eddie Adams AKA Dirk Diggler and perfectly captures the angst and optimistic naive nature of a young man starstruck with fame. Burt Reynolds is fantastic as the passionate porn director who so dearly wants his practice to be seen as more than just porn, that what he does is comparative to the highest works of cinema itself. Julianne Moore embodies the role of the damaged motherly figure who has turned to her profession as a coping mechanism. Even more minor roles played by actors such as Don Cheadle and Phillip Seymour Hoffman are all just so great.
And of course, it wouldn't be fair to talk about Boogie Nights without mentioning about the 70s and 80s period homage. Especially how Anderson cleverly juxtaposes the turn of the decade with the tonal shift between the first half of the film with the second. Where the first half taking place in the 70s is fun and smooth while everyone has a good time, switched to the grim flip of the 80s in the second half where the characters hit their low points. Where the constant usage of music may typically annoy me, the overabundance of 70s tracks felt very appropriate for the tone and mood of the first half of the film. It captures that euphoric sense when time flies by, which fits since the first half is basically just Eddie's success story. Choices in the second half felt appropriate as well, reminded me of Magnolia in a way.
I love how Anderson contrasts and utilizes editing to present the parallels between characters by presenting their stark contrast in succession of each other. Notably, the scene with Eddie in the car spliced against Burt's character in the limo, is such a remarkable sequence. Moreover, I love the family subtext in this film. The fucked up and weird, almost trashy, family dynamic in this movie. A theme that works surprisingly well for an absolutely dysfunctional and disturbed cluster of people. How the characters hit their low point when separated during conflict but are at their high points or back on track whenever they're together and thriving whenever reunited. And even then, as a group of people who are in a socially shunned profession, the way that Anderson depicts them all as empathetic and, gasp, normal people is downright admirable. I love how he depicts these often disregarded individuals as just normal people. It's the perfect depiction of normal people in "abnormal" situations.
On an overall scale, Boogie Nights is amazing, an incredible feat, and a testament to how much a director can improve their craft from their debut to their sophomore effort. Boogie Nights is impeccably directed, swiftly paced, masterfully scripted, and chalked full of excellent performances. The fact that Paul Thomas Anderson accomplished all of this at the age of 26 is incredible to me, and for a film made over 2 decades ago, it has aged exceptionally well.