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. Academy Awards 1997. Golden Globe Awards 1997. National Board of Review Awards 1997. New York Film Critics Awards 1997. Toronto International Film Festival 1997.
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 wonderfully innocent and well-meaning goof who ends up plunging into 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.