Lovelace (2013) / Drama
MPAA Rated: R for strong sexual content, nudity, language, drug use and some violence
Running time: 92 min.
Cast: Amanda Seyfried, Peter Sarsgaard, Sharon Stone, Robert Patrick, Juno Temple, Chris Noth, Bobby Cannavale, Hank Azaria, Adam Brody, James Franco, Chloe Sevigny, Debi Mazar, Wes Bentley, Eric Roberts
Director: Rob Epstein, Jeffrey Friedman
Screenplay: Andy Bellin
Review published August 11, 2013
Set mostly in the 1970s, Lovelace tells the tale of the rise of overnight sensation Linda Boreman, known better to the world by her show business name of Linda Lovelace (Seyfried, Les Miserables). Starring in the most wildly successful pornographic film of all time, Deep Throat, she would become the porn industry's first household name.
Scripted by Andy Bellin (Trust), much of Lovelace is taken from accounts from Linda Lovelace's 1980 autobiography, "Ordeal" in which she details her rocky marriage with the man who would become her manager, Chuck Traynor (Sarsgaard, Robot & Frank), who coerced her into the adult film industry and became a suffocatingly controlling and abusive force in her life. The person once seen as a representative of women's sexual emancipation would now be on the opposite end of the feminist argument, by claiming that women are routinely victimized and exploited for their sex appeal, for the enjoyment and enrichment of men who never look beyond a woman's sexuality to see her as a complete person.
Lovelace is directed by the documentarian-turned-biopic-specialist team of Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman (Howl), who make an interesting choice to show Linda's rise from relative nobody to one of the most famous women in America at the time as a tale split into two halves. The first half of the movie details a rather benign and fun-filled take on Lovelace blithely entering into the world of pornography out of her own free will, desirous to help hubby Traynor with some of the debts he had rung up, and perhaps a bit of curiosity on her part. The second half of the film colors in some extra details about how it all happened, suggesting that her fear of her husband played an even bigger role, as he became progressively more controlling, threatening, and physically abusive to her in order to get her to be the "cash cow" he had been molding her to be.
Lovelace is a sympathetic portrayal of Linda Lovelace and her brief career, and holds a modest interest for showcasing the pornography scene of the 1970s and the pop culture phenomenon that was Deep Throat. It effectively shows the allure of the porn business to someone with Linda's background, with her stifling home life among her generally disconnected parents, especially her tough and emotionally stingy mother (Stone, Bobby), and her attraction to the excitement of all of the things the big-thinking, fast-talking Traynor initially promised for her future. Unfortunately, she went "all in" with someone who wasn't "all there", and the allure quickly faded as every vestige of her humanity had been traded in by the commodity that she had become to all of the men around her.
Yet, "Deep Throat" doesn't equate to "deep thought". While Lovelace is well made, with a terrific sense of period (though a few anachronisms exist), and features quite a formidable cast, especially a very courageous Seyfried, ultimately, the storytelling lacks a certain thematic resonance that makes a decent production into something well worth going out of your way to see. We begin to care about Linda as we might for anyone who is a victim of verbal and physical abuse, but we never really connect with her outside of this. We aren't privy much that suggests what makes her tick inside. Lovelace would appear to be, from her actions, a complex character with her own wishes, dreams and desires -- many which would seem alien to you or me, and yet she is drawn to be an empty vessel, through which the wishes, dreams and desires of others are poured into. And while we sympathize, that doesn't equate to identifying with her in a way that illuminates us to just who that woman is whose name is the title of the movie we're seeing.
Nevertheless, enough is there for the emotional scenes toward the latter third of the film to resonate -- it's heartbreaking to hear a phone conversation between Lovelace and her father in which he reveals his severe disappointment, in himself, surprisingly, of seeing, first hand, his daughter performing pornographic acts for all of the world to see and make jokes about. And the film ends well, with Lovelace trying to finally close a dark chapter in her life by coming forward and telling her story the way she felt it should be told -- and perhaps help other women caught in the same situation.
Lovelace tells 'a' story about Linda Lovelace, but doesn't tell 'the' story. For that, we will have to look elsewhere, which makes the reason for the film's existence a bit ill defined. It maintains interest, as provocative and sex-tinged subject matter tends to do, but it isn't exactly revelatory. If you're at all interested in the tale of Linda Lovelace, there are other films and books (including those by Lovelace herself) that effectively tell her story much better than Lovelace, which feels like a tasty appetizer rather than a complete meal of a bio pic.
©2013 Vince Leo