Hayden Welch’s review published on Letterboxd:
“When I close my eyes, I see this thing, a sign, I see this name in bright blue neon lights with a purple outline. And this name is so bright and so sharp that the sign - it just blows up because the name is so powerful... It says, ‘Dirk Diggler.’”
From Jack Horner’s first gaze at the then Eddie Adams the power dynamic was off to the races. There’s nothing that gets past Jack; his tyrannical hand ultimately being his undoing. There’s something rather off-putting about Jack; his good-willed but fully manipulative behavior is so interesting. From the moment he says “Jack Horner, Filmmaker” it’s over and he’s one the naive seventeen-year-old starlet. There’s a Jack in every artist — thought they, we rather, will never admit it — this domineering imperialist evil all for a greater vision; all being masked in a façade of booze and coke waiting to come out. Jack, while flawed, is the only one who genuinely cares about his art; while the others love it their intentions seem more in community or fame. His dedication is his strongest and weakest aspect; as shown with his transition from film to video. This change is more than just aesthetics, the realization that his higher-up is a pedophile. This shows that the lifestyle is so attached to the time and place as everything goes downhill as soon as the sign “Goodbye 70s, Hello 80s.” This change takes time and some handle it better than others.
Once you begin to understand Jack you can comprehend why Eddie — I’ll be referring to him as “Dirk” from now on — would turn to Jack and Maggie for solidarity and home. His vanilla and oppressive parents obviously don’t support let alone understand his — admittedly vague and farfetched — dream, making Maggie and company a mirage in the heat. Dirk’s radical evolution as a person and entertainer shows, while he had friends that treat him like family, he never had a true grounded and positive support system. Dirk’s evolution was inevitable and, tragic as it is, it’s interesting to see how much empathy we have for someone who’s “talent” is completely by chance and biological. He simply stumbles into this fame with the childlike wonder and naivety and gains this sense of unjustified entitlement.
“Amber, are you my mom? I'm gonna ask you, okay? And you say yes, okay? Amber, are you my mom?”
Maggie — and the real her; Amber Waves — is my personal favorite character in this opus of personalities. Her maternal flare not only is a crux to the picture, but she has so much under the surface. Her love for her actual child yet her refusal to face the real trials and tribulations of being a mother and her reaction to it. The way her *real* life in the industry and her life with her ex-husband parallel is so compelling. She is willing to do anything for her children — biological or otherwise — until things get tough; her transformation into in a coke-ridden mess full of more love than knows what to do with. Maggie has the best of ambitions yet she can never fully grasp what she must do.
As I mentioned with Horner’s exploration Boogie Nights is, above else a film about change, evolution as well as regression. Nothing demonstrates this better than Scotty and Buck. One adapting and pushing forward as expectations change and the other grasping for dear life in hopes that things will be as they were. This may return but they’ll never be the same. Never. Buck and Maurice realizing that it cannot be as it was and he makes the best of it, and in their cases for the better. Scotty roaming from friend to friend hoping things will be the same. This acceptant and refusal is the core of Boogie Nights. The scene with Buck in the donut shop is more important of a choice than simply grabbing a bag or not; it’s choosing the leave the behind. As Buck always insists he’s and “actor” and denies claims of pornography showing his true want and need with Jack and co. is the familial one. While he still loves and associates with his industry family this nabbing of the blood-soaked cash bag was Buck’s understanding of the changing current.
“I got a brand new pair of roller-skates, you got a brand new key.”
While Buck and Maurice had enough self-realization to move on, Rollergirl wasn’t so lucky. Rollergirl is yet another part of the machine; she just didn’t have the support system. The horseshoe effect with Rollergirl and her highschool bully shows that her attempt at escaping the education system and her tormenters are futile. Even she — in the emotionally charged scene between Maggie and herself — realizes how the constant denial and cocaine will never hide her thoughts of her past. That being said she obviously comes to terms with her choices and makes the best of it. It’s no coincidence that every needle-drop when Rollergirl is around is pure bliss.
Reed and Dirk’s friendship is one of the most charming and telling aspects of the film. Reed is very emblematic of everything that Dirk found entrancing about the industry; the margaritas the the pool and the gym. This hollow lifestyle that only gains substantial purpose only comes with their friendship. Reed is obviously looking for something more when he says in the interview who indifferent he would be had he have to stop making films; he states who many other hobbies he had and how he’ll “fuck on his own time” Reed is clearly in this for the community. While on the surface this small production company in the San Fernando Valley may seem like just that, a production company, but it’s a family and a support system. Saying that seems like a dream; making art you love with people you consider family. The problem with that is that they aren’t really a support system. They support and love until egos conflict and things go wrong then *everything* falls apart.
In the end Boogie Nights is about community and what people are willing to do for each other — especially as things corrode — and how that conflicts with art. This constant change and evolution in an industry as frail as the adult entertainment industry. The love and passion in front of and behind the camera within Boogie Nights is palpable and dripping in every frame.