Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB
USA, 1997. New Line Cinema, Lawrence Gordon Productions, Ghoulardi Film Company. Screenplay by Paul Thomas Anderson. Cinematography by Robert Elswit. Produced by Paul Thomas Anderson, Lloyd Levin, John S. Lyons, JoAnne Sellar. Music by Michael Penn. Production Design by Bob Ziembicki. Costume Design by Mark Bridges. Film Editing by Dylan Tichenor.
No matter how well shot, designed and acted it is, by the end of P.T. Anderson’s porn-in-the-70s epic, patience runs out. Mark Wahlberg is perfectly cast as a busboy who turns porn superstar when director Burt Reynolds hears of his 13-inch penis and, liking his plucky demeanor, welcomes him into his nuclear family that includes den mother Julianne Moore and spoiled brat Heather Graham.
The rest of the cast, including a wonderfully tender romance between Melora Walters and the marvelous Don Cheadle, is first-rate (even if Philip Seymour Hoffman‘s desperately gay cameraman is off-putting), but at the heart of it is Wahlberg’s innocent and well-meaning goof who ends up almost drowning in the deep end.
The last third, which involves a drug lord played by Alfred Molina and a violent shoot-out at his house, is where life gets tiresome for our characters and is equally difficult to endure for the audience.
Anderson sticks to his gift for giving dignity and hope to characters who would be considered sideline freaks in someone else’s film, and that at least provides for the satisfaction of the overdue conclusion. Moore’s fantastic performance as the always-distracted Amber Waves is the film’s gem, doing a scary job of bringing to life not only her character’s emotional confusion but doing an impeccable job of putting across terrible porn acting.
Academy Award Nominations: Best Supporting Actor (Burt Reynolds); Best Supporting Actress (Julianne Moore); Best Original Screenplay
European Film Award Nomination: Screen International Award
Golden Globe Award: Best Supporting Actor (Burt Reynolds)
Nomination: Best Supporting Actress (Julianne Moore)
Screen Actors Guild Award Nominations: Best Ensemble Cast; Best Supporting Actor (Burt Reynolds); Best Supporting Actress (Julianne Moore)
Toronto International Film Festival: 1997