The rise and fall of porn-star Dirk Diggler, his sizeable schlong and the '70s sex industry itself.
"To get 'em in the theatre you've got to have big tits and big dicks and they don't want to spurt joy in the first five minutes," says porn director Jack Horner (a compelling Reynolds, who, bizarrely has distanced himself from this project) explaining why his porno films, first made on film and then on the cheaper videotape, were a prolific success.
Beginning in 1977 and ending in '84, Anderson's follow-up to the lamentable Hard Eight traces the life of Eddie Adams the small town boy with a very big beanpole, and his odyssey to the priapic-obsessed San Fernando Valley, detailing his evolution from pot washer and occasional exhibitionist to porn pin-up Dirk Diggler, a character inspired by famed giant-dicked pornster John Holmes.
Ex-rap star and former Calvin Klein philanthropist Marky Mark (previously known as cheeky 'n' cocky, now simply as Mr. Wahlberg), though noticeable in Fear, has metamorphosed into something much more impressive here. And Moore lends substantial support as his porn co-star Amber Waves, at once surreally mothering him while gently suggesting he should "try and cum on my stomach and tits".
There are memorable set pieces: the behind-the-scenes portrayal of a porn shoot - where the nervous Diggler is desperate to please; an unhinged William H. Macy (as crew member Little Bill) trailing through a poolside party (cocaine, cocaine everywhere, and not a nasal hair intact) while his wife is being rigorously pumped by some unknown stud in full view of everyone.
With films such as Ang Lee's The Ice Storm settling on a '70s milieu - oil crisis-era styling is suddenly hip, and with the flared hipsters, boob tubes, crimped hair and incandescent make-up of the porn ingenues, this is a spot-on visual evocation of the time. Even down to the music. But Anderson doesn't blow it all on style over content: while Milos Forman's The People vs. Larry Flynt (which dealt with similar subject matter) looked good but didn't sound right, this develops cleverly and offers more of an eviscerating full frontal - you do see Dirk Diggler's 13-inch thwacker, rather unnecessarily in fact. Anderson delivers full-on hedonism and then makes you wrestle with what is an unsanctimonious hangover.
Boogie Nights nearly allows itself damned brilliance but tries too hard as it falls prey to an excessive running time, burdening itself with some largely unnecessary subplots and scenes - one of which misfires as a faltering love letter to Tarantino.
Its world lovingly captured with snaking camera angles that hit every time (panning jerkily around a disco, spying furtively through the viewfinder of a porn cinematographer, split screens etc.) Boogie Nights is loaded with lascivious colour, poisoned with lacerating traumas and pumped full of wit. Better than sex. Very nearly.