Boogie Nights is a provocative, complex, risky and memorable film. Boogie Nights is about the adult film industry during a time when movies were shot on film and played in theatres. Jack Horner (played perfectly by Burt Reynolds) is an adult film director who dreams of making adult movies with good stories that will keep audiences watching for more than just the sex.
Boogie Nights has many memorable scenes thanks to its superb ensemble cast and several subplots depicting how the different characters make lives for themselves in the adult film industry and what transpires when they leave it.
One of the film’s finest scenes is a startling one featuring William H. Macy. Macy plays Little Bill, a middle-aged man employed as an assistant director in the adult film industry who is married to a porn star. Little Bill’s wife (played by porn star Nina Hartley) gets it on with every man she can except for her husband and she isn’t shy about it. In one scene, Little Bill discovers his wife having sex in the driveway surrounded by appreciative on-lookers. When Bill asks his wife what she’s doing, she replies “Shut up, Bill. You’re embarrassing me.”
The startling scene comes later at a New Year’s Eve party to ring in the year 1980. Little Bill discovers his wife once again being unfaithful in the house where the party is being held. Driven to the ultimate breaking point from having been humiliated and betrayed numerous times before, Little Bill, dazed, goes out to his car, removes a handgun, and returns to the room where he discovered his wife, shoots her and her lover, then puts the gun in his mouth and pulls the trigger.
The shot sequence is itself a spectacular presentation of Anderson’s skills as a director as it’s one long steadicam shot. Anderson is a self-made film director without any formal film education, which makes his incredible aptitude of staging complicated camera movements that much more impressive. The long tracking shot is not an easy technique to master, yet Anderson uses it masterfully to film this scene stealer in Boogie Nights. The shot continuity makes the heart wrenching collapse of Little Bill powerfully startling for it’s not until he pulls the trigger that the shot is cut. What is doubly effective about this scene and its execution is how it’s used as the catalyst for the dark times that will engulf all of the characters in the 80’s.