Wonderland

The film Boogie Nights is, strangely enough, based fairly closely on a true story. It turns its horrifying source material into a beautiful fairy tale, but fear not, someone has now made a much less fictionalized account of the worst year in the life of porn star John Holmes. I’m pretty sure most people won’t enjoy Wonderland, but not because it’s not well made. It is. The problem is the story is so unpleasant, and it’s told so graphically, that it will be off-putting to most audiences. In 1981 Holmes, down on his luck, addicted to drugs, and living in hotel rooms with his underage girlfriend, got involved with the bloodiest murder in California since the Tate/LaBianca killings. Val Kilmer does a great job playing John Holmes as a man more nervous than Karl Rove in a room full of lie detectors. But as good as he is, much of the rest of the cast is even better. The standout is Josh Lucas as Holmes criminal accomplice and later victim Ron Launius. Also superb are Eric Bogosian, the usually suck-tacular Dylan McDermott, the awesomely homey Carrie Fisher, the strangely friendless Lisa Kudrow, the deceptively cute Kate Bosworth, and, in a non-comic role that really works, Janeane Garofalo. It’s really the filmmaking that comes to the fore, though, as the tale of the murder is told from the perspective of each of its survivors, creating a coke-addled and blood-spattered Rashomon that asks a lot of the audiences. Grueling, but worth it.

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