HPPUB MOVIE REVIEW of Boogie Nights, and Josie and the Pussycats


Title:  Boogie Nights

Release Date:  1997

Nationality and Language: USA, Eng;ish

Running time: 155 minutes

MPAA Rating:  R (very hard, DVD appears to be NC-17)

Distributor and Production Company:  New Line Cinema

Director; Writer: Paul Thomas Anderson


Cast:   Mark Wahlberg, Burt Reynolds, William H. Macey, Julianne Moore

Technical: HDCAM

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Review:  This film is noteworthy as the major debut of Marky Mark Wahlberg. It came out about the time I was moving to Minnesota and I missed it then. I had been under the impression that it was an eclectic art film about the porn business. However, the film is quite grand, filled with a long story, vivid images and action, and from a major studio. Perhaps this film helped cement New Line Cinema as the “bad boy” or perhaps the risk taker among the major studios (owned by Time Warner it is fraternal of Warner Brothers).


The film opens in the Carter years, 1977, when disco was king (Saturday Night Fever gets mentioned), as Marky is a rebellious 17-year-old dropping out of high school and angering his mother when he wants to take his stuff as he leaves home. He has ability, all right, to make it as a stud in porn movies, but he is really a nice kid when his adventure starts. Burt Reynolds plays his patriarchal boss, who gets him set up. He performs explicit sex acts, and well. Yet, the movies have real stories, as Reynolds brags he can make money by movies that “suck the audience end that wants to know how it ends.” Basic screenwriting. They try to make good movies, but come under pressure to get ready for video (VHS would come along in 1984), and start hitting the explicit sex harder. They get more into drugs, and once he has snorted some cocaine, Dirk Diggler, the stage name for Mark’s character, starts acting like he was on red kryptonite. Eventually his life will come full circle—violence, jail, earning a GED, and starting over.


The film does raise the question about the secondary influence on people of pornography, drugs, etc.  There seems to be nothing “wrong” with it at first—the characters are simply living in their own world, where sexual attractiveness (as well as performance) defines the rules of social Darwinism. There are lines about the one part of Diggler’s anatomy that “matters,” and one hardly notices Marky’s public trademark: buffed up hairlessness. (David Skinner provides a humorous piece on Marky Mark in a June 1999 Weekly Standard, see http://www.doaskdotell.com/content/wchap1.htm). And there is one very striking image at the end of the film, at least on DVD, that makes it NC-17, and I can’t even describe it explicitly without violating COPA (if it is upheld). Yet I could review the movie even more effectively if I could. Eventually, it seems that the opportunistic values of the characters, where they separate themselves from ties to others to live out their fantasies in their own tinseltown, prove their undoing. Yet the movie never preaches; it shows.


There’s another point to make here: It’s hard to remember many movies about becoming a movie star. Becoming a porn star, as subject matter, may sound titillating but misses the interesting questions of what the typical actor goes through. “Garden State” comes closer to the mark. Or, “A Star Is Born.”


Josie and the Pussycats (2001, Universal, dir. Harry Elfont and Deborah Kaplan, Rachael Leigh Cook, Tara Reid, Alan Cumming, Gabriel Mann, PG-13, 95 min) was shown on the TheWB (on an early summer Wednesday night when I was hoping for Smallville), but it attracted my attention because the plot concerns young people being courted by media executives—here it’s a girl band who could become a vehicle to plant subliminal messages (Krispy Kreme doughnuts?? – I would never buy a franchise!). The story is said to be based on a comic book, but it is real comics, not anything like a “hero” movie. Now, in one of my own screenwriting experiments, I have developed a dramatic story of what a young male star goes through to make it (legitimately, not through the Boogie Nights route). The final scene where Gabriel Mann plays at bit of a hero saves the film just a little bit.





Related reviews: Garden State,  A Star Is Born


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Email me at Jboushka@aol.com