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