Film review: LOVELACE, from Built For Speed

Lovelace dramatises the life of Linda Boreman better known as Linda Lovelace who achieved notoriety as the star of iconic 1970’s porno movie Deep Throat and later became a prominent feminist and anti-porn campaigner.  Focusing mainly on the events surrounding the release of Deep Throat, Lovelace is a well-made but ultimately unsatisfying drama that skates across the surface of Linda’s complex, fascinating and tragic life.

The film begins like an episode of Puberty Blues with 20 year old Linda (Amanda Seyfried) starting to rebel against the conservative values of her staunchly Catholic parents.   When she’s seduced by nightclub owner Chuck Traynor (Peter Sarsgaard) her life takes a strange and dangerous turn.  The film suggests that, while initially affectionate toward Linda, Chuck was soon physically and psychologically abusive and even prostituted Linda to wealthy men. He also lured her into the porno film industry where she made a number of skin flicks including the much celebrated Deep Throat. In the unusual climate of the 70’s sexual revolution Deep Throat became a cause célèbre and a box-office hit and Linda was suddenly a star feted by the likes of Hugh Hefner.  Despite this unexpected fame she still, sadly, remained the victim of Chuck’s abuse.

The vast potential Linda’s story had for an important and compelling film is not realised here.  Lovelace plays like a racier-than-average telemovie with some confronting scenes of domestic violence and shreds of information about the 1970’s porno industry.  Apart from a later segment on the Phil Donahue show where Linda discusses her autobiography (ominously titled Ordeal) there’s very little about her post-Deep Throat life and her campaign to stop violence against women.  The use of a Rashomon approach half-way through in which the film revisits events hinted at earlier and provides additional and disturbing details about the abuse she received from Chuck, doesn’t overcome the script’s thin appraisal of Linda’s life.   In fact, the film’s tendency to flash forward and back disrupts its momentum and diminishes its emotional impact.

Lovelace only briefly acknowledges the social significance of Deep Throat and its effect on the burgeoning feminist movement.   The film doesn’t attempt to examine in any detail pornography’s role in female subjugation or liberation and a segment involving feminist Gloria Steinem (Sarah Jessica Parker) was omitted from the film.

Despite the script limitations, the film contains a number of memorable performances.  Amanda Seyfried is a believably sensual and alluring sex symbol but still an innocent, naïve and a convincingly sympathetic figure.  The film draws on Linda’s autobiography so it’s not surprising that she’s painted in a positive light but it’s not hard to imagine the dire situation of a young woman suddenly thrown into the porno industry where organised crime held sway.  Peter Sarsgaard may look like a member of Ron Burgundy’s crew here but he is superbly repulsive as the violent, coke-snorting Chuck and delivers one of the year’s most memorable performances.  Chris Noth of Sex and the City and Good Wife fame is a convincingly menacing presence as Tony Romano the gangster bank-rolling Deep Throat.  Bobby Cannavale, who was so good in Blue Jasmine, is a colourful but threatening figure as a mob-connected co-producer while Hank Azaria adds his usual quirky charm as the Deep Throat director Gerry Damiano who seems to think he’s making Citizen Kane.  An unrecognisable Sharon Stone plays impressively against type as Linda’s opressive, ultra-conservative Mother while Robert Patrick is a more sympathetic as Linda’s impassive good-hearted Father.  The only casting misstep is James Franco who plays Hugh Hefner but looks, speaks and acts nothing like Hef.

Almost as much as a biopic of Linda, this is a 1970’s nostalgia film with the requisite over the top art direction and costuming that includes some terrifying technicolour shirts.  The film also captures the era with a fine selection of period pop songs.

Within its limited scope, Lovelace is a compelling drama but it doesn’t do justice to Linda’s story.  Let’s hope that a Martin Scorsese or a Paul Thomas Anderson one day gives Linda’s sad but powerful life-story the detailed and insightful treatment it deserves.


Nick’s rating: Three stars.

Classification: MA.

Director(s): Rob Epstein, Jeffrey Friedman.

Release date: 26th Sept 2013

Running time:  98 mins.


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