Movie Review: ‘Lovelace’
Directed by: Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman
Starring: Amanda Seyfried, Peter Sarsgaard, and Sharon Stone
Plot: The story of Linda Lovelace, the star of the most famous adult film.
In 1972, the first pornographic film with story, character development, and high production values, called Deep Throat, made it into dirty theaters all over the country and became part of the pop culture zeitgeist. It made reportedly $600 million in revenue (although this number is questioned due to mob inflation for the sake of money laundering as many of the porno theaters were mob run back in the day). It shot its star, Linda Lovelace, to infamy. She was a bubbly all-natural girl next door who become a symbol of sexual freedom. Roger Ebert said of the film, “It is all very well and good for Linda Lovelace, the star of the movie, to advocate sexual freedom; but the energy she brings to her role is less awesome than discouraging. If you have to work this hard at sexual freedom, maybe it isn’t worth the effort.” If only he knew.
What came later, and documented by this biopic of Lovelace, is the story of how she was constantly being threatened and manipulated by her asshole of a manager, Chuck Traynor, who also happens to be her husband. In the role of Lovelace is Amanda Seyfried, who absolutely captures that bubbly innocence and charm that makes you crush on her hard. Watching her stick it out with Chuck and make her way into porn hurts because of how much Seyfried is able to make you fall for her. In the role of Traynor, Peter Sarsgaard, is a shark. He is usually calmly and quietly circling Lovelace with a charming smile and disarming sincerity that its sometimes hard to see the violence and insanity reveal itself.
It certainly doesn’t help that the directors decided for a very strange plot construction that hides much of Chuck’s bad behavior. The first half is very much about the whirlwind romance of Chuck and Linda before they end up in dire straits and relying on the porn industry to make up the difference. Linda, surprisingly talented in bed despite her lacking experience, jumps in head first into the porn world with a smile and enthusiasm. When Deep Throat catches on, we see the media blitz which seeks to honor her. She is applauded on stage, talked about on every channel, constantly doing radio interviews, and even gets to meet a young Hugh Hefner (a cameo from James Franco). These kind of biopics are always characterized by these quick kinds of rises to celebrity which teeters in the middle before the fall from grace. Instead of a true fall from grace, the film then backtracks using Linda’s tell-all book deal as a framing device to revise the movie as we saw it squeezing in Chuck’s horrible moments. Where it was implied that Linda and Chuck were so in love and sexually free that they just had really rough sex, it turns out Chuck was actually bouncing her off the walls, threatening her with his gun, and making her turn tricks.
This plot construction is an unfortunate direction. The second half essentially subverts the first, which might sound good on paper, but I think it is clumsy and muddles the actors’ performances. They focus a whole lot on the tragedy of Lovelace’s story, which gives Seyfried plenty to work from, but it barely touches on her years of anti-porn advocacy, which might have been a more interesting contrast then just reliving the events with the blinders off.
What Else to Watch: When it comes to ’70s porn rise and falls, Paul Thomas Anderson’s Boogie Nights is a much better flick.