Addicted To Noise correspondent Margaret Bream is covering the Toronto International Film Festival, which began on Sept. 4 and concludes today. Here is her report:
Unfunky rapper Marky Mark, who may be best known for stripping to his gauchies while performing on stage, has parlayed this limited schtick into a slim but expanding movie career.
In his latest role, he may have stretched his claim to fame -- both figuratively and literally -- as far as he can go.
Marky, all grown up now and known as Mark Wahlberg, is the star of Boogie Nights, one of the buzz films of the Toronto festival. Wahlberg plays 17-year-old loser Eddie Adams who possesses one sole God-given gift -- a magnificent 13-inch cock that is always at the ready. All he has to do is look in the mirror, behold the member and repeat the incantation: "I'm going to be a star. A big, bright shining star." And presto -- up it goes.
With these qualifications, it's not long before Eddie passes the screen test to become part of a hard-core adult film troupe led by father-figure Jack Horner (played with delicious restraint by Burt Reynolds). Set in Los Angeles during the late 1970s and early 1980s, Boogie Nights purports to be an examination of life in the seedy, greedy underworld of the porn industry. Yeah, sure, the folks in the biz aren't all bad. They might even be decent human beings if they could slow down their coke and crystal meth habits.
Boogie Nights gets off to an OK start, getting its limited energy from a disco soundtrack running at conversation-killing volume. For the first 45 minutes the audience is held by the voyeuristic attraction of seeing Wahlberg get it on with a variety of stunning naked "foxes." But even the "behind-the-scenes" porno footage is not enough to keep the interest going, and the movie soon falls completely apart.
American director Paul Thomas Anderson, 26, in his second feature outing after his debut flick Hard Eight, had the germ of a good idea in his story about a dim and gullible young man seduced and finally completely corrupted by sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll. But the script just isn't there, and after a bum-numbing 147 minutes, the film mercifully grinds to a close.
Admittedly, there are a few fun bits along the way. Fargo's William Macy, wearing a blonde wig that looks like it was unearthed at an Elton John garage sale, turns in a hangdog performance as the perpetually cuckolded member of Jack Horner's porno troupe family who finally resorts to violence to get even with his "fucking wife." And blonde bomb Heather Graham (last seen in Swingers) is memorable as "Rollergirl,'' the porn actress who never takes off her skates.
But the film fails at capturing the music and feel of the disco era. Cheesy pop tunes such as Melanie's "Brand New Key," War's "Spill the Wine" and Three Dog Night's "Momma Told Me Not To Come" are typical of the B- and C-level songs on the soundtrack that are out of date for the period represented.
The film, as lame as it is, would have been infinitely more watchable set against the real music of the era. But I guess songs from the likes of disco gods Donna Summer, the Bee Gees, Michael Sembello, Village People, Gloria Gaynor or Parliament were unavailable -- or just too darn expensive to obtain on director Anderson's modest budget.
Perhaps if Anderson had spent a bit more cash, he could have found someone to read his script to weed out other embarrassing anachronisms. Are expressions such as "Say again?," "Hell-oooh?!," "Not a problem" and "Whatever..." representative of the era? Duh!
If Anderson goes back to the editing suite and takes out 45 minutes of celluloid, he might have some hope of adding some much-needed stiffening to this sadly flaccid flick.
Stilll, however Boogie Nights does at the box office, Wahlberg should come off all right. He certainly rose to the occasion as the oversized, cocksure hustler Eddie, and he's already filming his next role in the upcoming The Big Hit. [Sat., Sept. 13, 1997, 9 a.m. PST]