Year of release: 1997
Director: Paul Thomas Anderson
Stars: Mark Wahlberg, Julianne Moore, Burt Reynolds, William H. Macy, John C. Reilly, Heather Graham, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Don Cheadle, Melora Walters, Luis Guzman, Nicole Ari Parker, Joanna Gleason, Thomas Jane, Ricky Jay, Philip Baker Hall, Michael Penn, Alfred Molina, Nina Hartley
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 9
Paul Thomas Anderson's second film definitely placed him on the map, with a risque screenplay, that probed the porn world of the 70s and was inspired by the life of adult film star John Holmes. The film follows the story of Eddie Adams, a young man who is finishing high school and working some small time jobs in order to make some money. Eddie catches the attention of Jack Horner, a director and producer of adult films, and following a dramatic exit from his house's parents, ends up being part of Horner's group of actors/performers who live under the same roof. Eddie experiences a meteoric rise to popularity in the adult films he performs, thanks to his natural endowments, but that crescendo starts to crack rapidly.
Paul Thomas Anderson's ode to the 70s, specifically to the adult movies from that era, comes with an aura of nostalgia - those were the days when the directors working on those films believed they were doing something for the sexual liberation, where there was still a concept of film on the big screen, before the video emerged and pushed adult films to specialized ghettos. The film shows the group within Jack Horner's house as a family that he built - Horner's films were for all intended purposes a family affair, all starring emotionally damaged people, from the beautiful Rollergirl, trying to finish her highschool certification, to Amber Waves, trying to get visitation rights to see her child. Though Mark Wahlberg's Eddie Adams/Dirk Diggler is our narrator, the mosaic structure of the film, allows a glimpse into all the lives of the family that Jack Horner built. The film also perfectly captures the transition of the 70s to the 80s and how mentalities started to change. The film boasts fantastic performances from the entire cast, but the hightlights are mainly Julianne Moore who does a remarkable job playing Amber Waves, creating a woman who is vulnerable, trying to transfer her mother instincts to others since she can't do it with her own child, Heather Graham playing Rollergirl, a young woman who is just trying to find her own place in the world and Burt Reynolds, as Jack, the old patriarch who sees his empire changing but who tries to adapt to the world around him. The cinematography from Robert Elswit is simply stunning. A modern classic worth watching anytime.