Why the Julianne Moore character in ‘Boogie Nights’ is the best
(Credit: Netflix)

Editor's Choice

Why the Julianne Moore character in 'Boogie Nights' is the best

Deemed by Quentin Tarantino as his favourite Paul Thomas Anderson film, Boogie Nights remains one of PTA’s masterpieces. Now streaming on Netflix, this 1997 period piece revolves around an anatomically-gifted man named Eddie Adams whose entry into the porn industry brings him huge success and a carefree, lavish lifestyle. However, Eddie soon loses control over himself when he stumbles upon drugs, especially cocaine, which affects his performance and leads him to spiral. The film is a brilliant commentary on the porn industry and its hidden dark truth. 

With a brilliant cast, including Burt Reynolds, Mark Wahlberg, Julianne Moore and others, it is a disturbingly engrossing and humorous piece by the acclaimed auteur who uses surreal long takes, incredible visuals and brilliant dialogues to embellish the film. While the characters are all pretty interesting in their own ways, Julianne Moore’s character of Amber Waves stood out to me the most. For her brilliant performance, Moore even won nominations at the Golden Globes, the Academy Awards, and the Screen Actors Guild. 

Moore plays the beautiful Maggie, aka ‘Amber Waves’, who is caught in a gruelling custody battle with her husband. She eventually loses custody of the child as the court justifies her incompetency by showing her close involvement with the porn industry and past drug use. Waves is bogged by social inhibitions and prejudices and are dying to express maternal love. Unable to meet her son, she finds the next best alternative by showing unbridled affection to Dirk Diggler, aka Eddie Adams or his co-star Rollergirl. 

Waves is representative of the vulnerability and frustration of a woman who has been denied motherhood due to societally-declared incompetency. It might sound freaky and disturbing, but she is incredibly patient and nurturing when Waves encourages Diggler and guides him through his first-ever camera sex scene. In that moment of exchange, despite the erotic actions that have passed, Waves and Diggler share unspoken words, and she finds an outlet for her maternal affections. 

Even her constant reassurance to Rollergirl — when the latter asks, “Amber, are you my mom? I’m gonna ask you, okay? And you say yes, okay? Amber, are you my mom?”, she says “Yes sweetie” — shows the innate motherly instinct in her to enclose her counterpart in warmth and numb their pain, albeit momentarily.

Moore is brilliant in her role and manages to do something that is extremely difficult to achieve, even for an actress of her stature. Within this bizarre setting, she adds magnetism to a character who never oversteps into her co-star’s way, yet manages to grab all the attention. In a world of objectification, false facades and transient pleasure, Moore’s character bears a tender authenticity that is further seen in a few moments of raw emotion as she sobs uncontrollably over the lost custody battle. 

Even when she is shunned at the courthouse after honestly answering questions regarding her lifestyle and sobriety, Amber finds comfort in her chosen porn family. They adopt her as much as she embraces them. Moore’s brilliance lies in her graceful and poised demeanour and the ability to love. No matter her on-screen time, she remains the most well-rounded and moving character in the film- the only kind of ‘well-endowed’ that matters!