LOVELACE Movie Review
There is likely no other name more synonomous with pornography than Linda Lovelace. When Deep Throat was released back in 1972, pornography was entering a new age of popular culture, and it made its young leading lady a household name. It would be the only adult film that Linda would ever make, and it wasn’t until many years later that the public became aware of the nightmarish situation that the young ingenue had endured over the course of the film’s success. These issues are explored in directors Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman’s stirring autobiographical tale Lovelace.
Amanda Seyfried stars as the eponymous character who suffered through years of domestic violence at the hands of her money-hungry husband, Chuck Traynor. The film charts their whirlwind romance at it’s start in Florida when Lovelace was known as Linda Boreman. She’s a young, beautiful and effervescent twenty-something girl, living in agony with her deeply Catholic parents played by a virtually unrecognizable Sharon Stone, and the great Robert Patrick. When Chuck enters her life, she sees a real shot at happiness. It’s only when the money dries up that Chuck suggests she try her luck in the porn industry, figuring her special talent (that ultimate lends to Deep Throat’s title) would get her far. The rest is history as they say.
The first half of the film presents an almost Cinderella-like story of a young, vulnerable woman taking control of her sexuality and making something good out of it. You see the red carpets, headlines, magazine spreads, and all of the other trite cliches of celebrity. It’s then that the film essentially resets itself and tells the story from a drastically darker perspective.
The second half of the film features several cringe-worthy abuse scenes involving Sarsgaard’s Traynor and Seyfried’s Lovelace. It’s a nightmarish and frightening hour of gun-to-the-head ultimatums and stomach-turning rape. It’s hard to imagine a human being enduring that level of violent control, and despite the despicable nature of his character, Peter Sarsgaard delivers a masterful performance. Because of the film’s dual narrative structure, Sarsgaard essentially plays the same man with two different personalities. One is a desperate but charming fame-seeker who helps catapult his young wife to stardom, and the other is a manipulative sociopath who sees his wife more as a paycheck than a life partner.
As Linda Lovelace, Amanda Seyfried gives one of the bravest and most raw performances of her relatively short career. One would have to imagine that playing a woman as culturally-relevant as Lovelace would be difficult, but Seyfried is game here. From the naivety of her youth, to the wariness of her post-pornography life, Seyfried doesn’t miss a beat. It’s just another signal that she is destined for great success in this industry, and Lovelace is a benchmark on her already impressive resume.
The sets and music in the film are wonderfully nostalgic, filled with disco, bellbottom jeans, platform shoes and all of the other trappings that seem now like artifacts from a bygone era. Directors Friedman and Epstein don’t try to misrepresent the real-life individuals that the film includes, instead relying heavily on Linda Lovelace’s own memoir entitled Ordeal. It presents Lovelace as a sacrificial lamb, in the sense that her speaking up about the horrors she experienced helped to shine a light on the brutal misogyny that exists within the industry.
When Lovelace is over, you feel a little sick inside. This is perhaps the true accomplishment of the film itself. We all know Linda Lovelace as the talented vixen of Deep Throat, but this writer never knew anything about the other side of that history. For that reason, Lovelace is one of the most enthralling films of the year.