Lovelace

Peter Sarsgaard and Amanda Seyfried in Lovelace

 

 

Amanda Seyfried has a spectacular rack and, gents, you get plenty of it in this biopic about Linda Lovelace the 1970s deep throat queen who unwittingly did more than most to make porn legit. Amanda Seyfried… rack… unwittingly. Those are the key words from that sentence and of this film, a well made, deeply period piece that would have us believe that it’s on the side of the unwitting, naïve Bronx Catholic girl born Linda Boreman – who went on to become the star of Deep Throat, the first porn film to screen in mainstream theatres – while all the time devoting 90 per cent of screen time, and 99 per cent of dramatic weight to her as Lovelace.

I point this out not to wag the finger, but because the film is doing what Lovelace herself did – after leaving porn she became a loud voice against the industry, a campaigner whose “yes I did” would swing to “no I didn’t” so frequently that you wonder whether she might not have cared either way, just so long as she was turning a buck.

The plot? Well, it’s Boogie Nights in all but name – the money, the guys in charge, the ostentatious consumption, the cocaine. That and the Gretchen Moll Betty Page film – nice young girl from nowhere is inveigled into doing all manner of bad things by all manner of bad people. Chief baddie in the Lovelace story is Chuck Traynor, the sleaze who bewitched Lovelace into appearing in her first porn film, where it was discovered that she had a huge gift for fellatio, a poor gag reflex. Peter Sarsgaard plays Traynor, and he’s done so many similar roles now that he knows how to pitch bad that it’s just about sympathetic – this guy is just a bit adrift morally, rather than out and out wicked.

In fact one of the many nice things to be said about this movie is how good Seyfried’s support actors are – Chris Noth finally does something to write home about as a shitty movie producer; Hank Azaria does a Hank Azaria turn as a flaky director; James Franco is just about believable as a young Hugh Hefner. Special mention must also be made of Sharon Stone as Lovelace’s strict, god-fearing mother. Stone is so believable as a woman in the grip of a rigid faith, yet struggling with motherlove that it was only when the credits finally came up that an entire film of “who is that?” was finally laid to rest.

As with many films right now, Lovelace sets about settling scores with the 1970s, with the boomers, with the let-it-all-hang-out philosophy and how that meant a rough deal for women, more often than not. A generation ago there would have been no truck with the character of Lovelace’s mother. Here, though she’s not exactly carried shoulder high for a lap of honour, her brand of morality does get a sympathetic hearing.

As for the rest of it, it’s a symphony of exquisite period production design, some very funny jokes at the expense of 1970s porn, Seyfried’s frequently unclothed body and those big, big eyes of hers, brimming with liquid naiveté. Seyfried is really quite remarkable as Lovelace. But in spite of Seyfried’s stamp on this, and the film’s title, it isn’t actually about Linda at all. On this it really is, foolishly, following the line she took in her mea non culpa post-porn autobiography, Ordeal. According to Ordeal, Linda wasn’t the agent of her own fortune or misfortune. In fact she wasn’t any sort of agent at all. So who’s the film about then?

 

© Steve Morrissey 2013

 

 

 

 

2 thoughts on “Lovelace”

  1. I attended Lovelace at Sundance not knowing too much about the story of Linda Lovelace. Linda Lovelace is the most famous pornography star of all time because of the film Deep Throat (1972) which became wildly popular with mainstream audiences and brought pornography into popular culture. More than an indictment of the pornography business, this film is an indictment and expose on spousal abuse. Linda married young and was sexually and physically abused by her husband throughout her marriage. She was forced into doing these films and acts. She eventually found the courage to leave her husband and wrote a tell-all which is what this movie is based on.

    The way this story was structured keeps it interesting and revelatory, and tonally the film is in accordance with her life. Things start off happy and there are lots of funny moments but soon enough things take a turn for the worse and that is where the true drama ensues.

    Amanda Seyfried may not seem like the right choice for the role but she handles herself and the material with ease. She does a fabulous job evoking a wide range of emotions and brings her performance to a previously unseen level (at least, from what I've seen of hers). Peter Sarsgaard naturally exudes kindness and charm, we are seduced by it as she is, yet when the time calls for it he is rightly overpowering and terrifying.

    Directors Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman started off making documentaries that were both important and compelling. They made the switch to traditional narrative films with Howl which showcased their talent but Lovelace is further proof that they are multi-talented and continuing to grow in skill.

    The film does leave out a few things, most likely for the sake of the narrative, Linda was forced to participate in several short pornography loops before she appeared in Deep Throat, including a bestiality film. She also made two movies after Deep Throat (including Deep Throat II).

    The film has instant notoriety for its connection to Deep Throat and hopefully this will drive a bigger audience to it but it will likely gain some controversy as well for its association (in fact there was a small group protesting it at the premiere which is utterly ridiculous). I hope this film gets a large audience as marital abuse in its many forms is far too common a problem and needs to be brought to the forefront of discussion.

  2. I was looking forward to seeing Lovelace since I heard about its announcement. The cast makes a case for seeing the film regardless of what the film is actually about. I think the story of Deepthroat as well as that of Traynor and Lovelace are both very intriguing. Despite having all of this going for it, I was let down. The pacing of the film is the biggest problem. The film leisurely introduces us to the cast and the relationship between Traynor and Lovelace, so leisurely in fact that I was wondering when the darker elements would be exposed. At only 92 minutes the film feels a lot longer. Anyone with any knowledge of the story at all will wonder how they're going to wrap it up as the film meanders only to make abrupt leaps in time.

    It makes sense that the directors chose to end the film in 1980 as opposed to 1984, because any longer and the film would have felt interminable. This does hurt the film, though. The way the subsequent events of 1980 are handled is rushed to the point that it feels amateurish. I imagine the pieces that were cut could have been included had there been a tighter edit of the rest of the film as a whole. The way the narrative is handled is wise – cutting back to show different interpretations of the story – because so many have disputed Lovelace's claims.

    All that being said,the film has its entertaining sequences – mostly thanks to the performances which are great. Also, the production design never feels hokey or inauthentic (which easily could have been the case). Another issue is that the brutality of what Lovelace claims to have endured is watered down here (for obvious reasons), but it always feels like they could have pushed it further. The scenes of abuse seem so choreographed (and rushed) that it is hard to feel the weight or emotional impact that is intended. All of the threat and malice is left up to Seyfried to make real, which she delivers on, but it shouldn't be entirely on her. Even Sarsgaard's cruel moments as Traynor don't match the sleazy charm he conveys at other points in the film. It's as if the filmmakers just expect the top notch set decoration and costumes to be enough to convince us of the terrible events just by bringing them up. At one point Linda cries to her mother (Sharon Stone) that her husband hits her; sure we see him toss her around but the domestic violence is mostly implied and it feels cowardly. That's the problem, in too many ways the film just stops at almost.

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