Boogie Nights

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Boogie Nights

Director Paul Thomas Anderson's second film and second triumph (this year's overlooked Hard Eight was the first), is a sprawling, energetic, audacious look at the porn industry of the late '70s and early '80s. Mark Wahlberg, in a performance that allows even "Wildside" to be forgiven, plays a young stud, with a talent clearly outlined by his tight jeans, who rises to the top of the industry only to let success go to his head. A large and universally excellent cast (Burt Reynolds, Julianne Moore, John C. Reilly, Don Cheadle, Heather Graham, William H. Macy) plays the extended family he joins. Though it's incredibly stylish, Anderson and his cast never let Boogie Nights stray from its human center. For example, as a porn producer with artistic aspirations, Reynolds plays a character that could easily have been a caricature, but he conveys sleaze with heart so well that the threat never comes close to materializing. By taking on the porn industry, Anderson has chosen a subject that could easily be mined for cheap laughs. But while it's very funny, Boogie Nights taps into something much deeper with its on-target depiction of the shifting political and social tides of the '70s and '80s and thoughtful relationships between characters. It's a deeply satisfying movie.