Director Thomas Anderson's sophomore sizzler (Hard Eight was his debut), is an ambitious, tragicomic epic about the porn-film industry in the late '70s and '80s. Copping heavily from Scorsese, Tarantino and Altman, the film represents not only a big break for Thomas Anderson but also for former Calvin Klein briefs babe Wahlberg. Affable and sympathetic, Wahlberg plays a 17-year-old busboy whose bulging crotch catches the eye of porn auteur Jack Horner (Reynolds at his smarmy, hirsute best). Re-dubbed Dirk Diggler, the rising “star” joins Horner's make-shift family, which includes the maternal Amber Waves (Moore) and Rollergirl (Graham), a cheery nymphet who never takes her skates off, even during sex. The first half of the film mesmerizes with breathtaking tracking shots of '70s glitter and glam; the second half is decidedly darker, and less effective, as Dirk falls from his porn pedestal amidst a cloud of cocaine and petty crime. On the down side, Thomas Anderson's writing talents don't quite equal his directorial skills, and the much-snickered-about ending in which we get to see (courtesy of prosthetic science) what makes Dirk so, er, extraordinary actually ends the film on a weak, gratuitous note. Some things are, indeed, still best left to the imagination. Nonetheless, Boogie Nights counts among the year's best, a superbly acted ensemble piece that never judges or flinches at the world it captures.
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