"I love the night life / I love to boogie..."
O course, in the Alicia Bridges song, "boogie" means "dance." In Nightlife, they boogie the X-rated way. Nighttime is the street people's time. It's the time for "police presence," for hookers to ply their trade,for X-rated movies to be made, and for relationships to form and break in a matter of hours.
Nightlife is a pastiche of all of these scenes, as seen by following one night's adventures of Joanna Jordan (Bridgette Monet), a prostitute's prostitute (nothing kinky here; it's just that her co-workers admire her style), who incidentally has the hottest sex scene in the film. Her seasoned co-stars also provide their share of eroticism, marred only by some strange directorial quirks which will be described later. This very laid-back film's object seems to be more the re-creation of the mood of street life than erotic stimulation.
We first see Joanna in bed with her boyfriend, David (Dave Cannon), whose proposal of marriage is rejected because, Joanna tells him, "We're not normal people." Before our imaginations conjure up visions of some strange deformity (there is nothing deformed about the lovely Ms. Monet) or deep psychological trauma, we're shown the sad truth: Joanna is a hooker and David is a cop, which forces Joanna to consider giving up her profession for love. This question haunts her as she performs her nightly services.
After an argument with David in his police car, Joanna joins Clarita (Loni Sanders, in an all-too-brief role), who has just come from satisfying a sailor in an alley in a scorching performance, and Cassie (Gayle Sterling). Joanna introduces Cassie to a porno film director, who treats her (and us) to some exciting lesbian interplay, until the filming is interrupted by a police raid. Happily, the cops are sidetracked by the oral abilities of Cassie and T.J. (newcomer Monerica), until it is finally revealed that we've been watching a filming within a filming.
Joanna's next stop is the office of Dr. Mengers, a psychiatrist who suffers from impotence. Aided by the lovely, redheaded Lisa (Dorothy LeMay, again too briefly seen), Joanna stimulates the doctor orally —she talks erotically to him— as Lisa follows Joanna's directions. Needless to say, the good doctor, played by Joey Silvera, is cured by these able damsels.
Still troubled by David's proposal, Joanna seeks the advice of Vi, the madame of a local brothel.. Vi, played by Honey Wilder, in an excellent imitation of Dolly Parton's style if not her body, tells Joanna that if David had proposed to her, she'd accept in a minute.
It's at this point that the direction takes a turn for the weird. Joanna and Vi's conversation is interrupted by the bed sounds of Lulu and Father Brannigan, who are bedded down only a few feet away, and by Peaches, who first appears in clown make-up; she's been having fun on a trapeze with Weird Harry (Michael Morrison). This is truly a well-equipped bordello. The viewer is then offered these competing scenes in a musical-chairs style, moving from Lulu and the priest to Peaches and Harry to Joanna and Vi (with Lulu in the background) and back again. This style of direction, while common and accepted in more conventional cinema, unfortunately detracts from the erotic atmosphere of this X-rated feature.
Finally, we come full circle to fin Joanna once again in bed with David. The question of marriage is still unresolved, with David again proposing, and Joanna resisting. She loves her profession too much to give it up. But, we realize, she also loves David, which we're shown in one of the most tender, erotic love scenes on videotape today.
It is significant that within moments after Joanna and David consummate their love, the film ends, with no real resolution of the central question of what David and Joanna will do next. The main flaw with this story is its lack of focus, as the director evidently meant to have two concurrent themes —one, the maturing of Joanna through her quest for self-knowledge, and second, an examination of the nightlife on the underside of society.
Director Lewis has, unfortunately, been unable to meld these themes into one coherent story. We start to see this problem in the bordello scene, but it is much more pronounced when, during David and Joanna's most tender moments, the scene abruptly shifts for a few seconds to some anonymous street scene, thereby detracting from the natural momentum of the love scene.
Still, this film often has the energy to keep the viewer watching closely, thanks largely to the well-established talents of Sanders, Monet, LeMay and Wilder. Their performances make this a film well worth seeing.