Ah, finally, we are experiencing the story of noblewoman Ada Lovelace, and how her innovate mathematic abilities would go on to influence computer programming as we know it. Jokes aside, this biopic's actual subject matter isn't exactly as tasteful as you might expect, based on the fact that it's a low-profile independent film. Well, "Boogie Nights" was a pretty effective drama, but then again, I don't know how artistically seriously they're taking this project, because, wow, its cast is so bloated with [u]actual[/u] movie stars that it may as well be considered a major commercial project. Hey, the film didn't cost but about $10 million, so some would argue that these mainstreams took this project because they believed in it on artistic level, but they clearly saved some money thanks to the fact that Sharon Stone, Wes Bentley and Eric Roberts are so eager to just remind people that they're still alive that Stone and Roberts both just starred in the DVD films "Border Run" and "A Talking Cat!?!", respectively, - if you want to use a derivate of "respect" when referring to Sharon Stone's and Eric Roberts' recent career moves - with Bentley playing a minor role in "The Hunger Games". Shoot, come to think of it, it's not like the still-relevant members of this film's star-studded cast have been consistent in doing respectable films, but hey, if this film stars Amanda Seyfried, and if art films are often considered an excuse for actresses to get naked, then for all I care, you can call this the American adaptation of the dramatic, French-language Cannes Film Festival entry "The Pornographer". Oh hey, I guess you can make a hyper-artistic film about the adult film industry, and I really do stress "I guess", because like most people, I didn't see "The Pornographer", although I did see this film, which is probably going to be about as seen as "The Pornographer". Suit yourself, fellas, because you're missing out, both on Amanda Seyfried as a woman who is legendary for professionally getting into explicit situations, as well as on a pretty decent film, if you can get past plenty of problems.
Sure, this story is recognizable, not only because it's based on relatively well-known true events, but because subject matter of this nature has been tackled by plenty of films in the past, and yet, I can't help but feel as though this particular film stands to associate you with its subject matter more, slapdashing through potential expositorily (That's a word, right?) rich segments in its narrative, or at least underplaying characterization. There's only so much attention being put into fleshing out this character study, and while there are enough well-rounded areas for this film to not feel awkwardly rushed, the final product is still about as distancingly undercooked as, of all things, distancingly draggy. Andy Bellin's script goes tainted by some meandering, if not repetitious excesses in material, if not filler, leaving pacing to often go limp on paper, alone, until it finds itself brought to a crawl by atmospheric dry spells. Directors Rob Epstein's and Jeffrey Friedman's thoughtful storytelling has some pretty effective moments behind it, but generally speaking, it simply has a tendency to get a touch too thoughtful for its own good, to where the film is rendered, not so much dull, but lacking in flavor, making it easier to detect the familiarity that further blands things up. Again, this story, in spite of limitations to flesh-out, is recognizable, and too much so, as Linda Lovelace's story is a pretty traditional one, made to feel more formulaic by a blandly conventional plotting structure which reflects laziness through inspiration. Conviction is here, but it's limited, because no matter how hard the film tries in some places, in too many other places, inconsistencies in pacing and formulaic plotting are enough to defuse much of the intrigue out of this promising project, until is falls as rather bland, under-inspired and, well, forgettable. It's certainly not the "Boogie Nights" companion piece that one might expect it to be, but it still proves to quite enjoyable with its meeting every misstep with some inspiration, at least in the selling of this subject matter's notable setting.
The soundtrack, of course, plays a literally and figuratively "instrumental" role in selling this effort, delivering on some delightful '70s pop classics that aren't too clichéd, and capture the style of the era primarily covered in this period piece about as much art direction which delivers on distinctly 1970s set and costume designs. Even visual style helps in selling this film's setting, as Eric Alan Edwards' cinematography all but nails the low-budget '70s grime to its definition, polished by well-defined modernist tastes in lighting, thus making for a refreshing visual style that is both handsome and fitting. Now, style isn't all that terribly sharp, but it is sharp enough to sell this effort's distinguished setting, and that, alone, does a lot to reflect a degree of conviction which brings life to this subject matter's very much, at least conceptually, present intrigue. Again, this film's story concept is too familiar, and not just because it's based on a true story, but it's genuinely interesting, with potential as an exploration of the human depths of various people involved in a sleazy, dehumanizing business that finds itself done a degree of justice by a flawed script by Andy Bellin whose characterization has genuine areas for every undercooked area, enhanced by some thoughtfulness to direction by Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman. Storytelling is kind of limp in one too many places for comfort, but that's likely simply because of a lack of filmmaking experience for Bellin, Epstein and Friedman, rather than a lack of inspiration, as a sense of ambition rarely abates in the midst of the cold spells in storytelling, and it's often matched by true inspiration, especially on the screen. Material is limited, as you can imagine, but most every member of this surprisingly star-studded cast convinces, and that especially goes for the leads, with Peter Sarsgaard stealing the show in his excellently subtly layered, piercingly intense portrayal of the sleazily charismatic, but disturbed Chuck Traynor, Linda Lovelace's brutal husband and pusher, while the beautiful Amanda Seyfried unveils a potential as a talent that she has rarely flaunted before through the capturing of the vulnerability of Lovelace, and how it leaves innocence to dissipate as the pornographic legend plummets, if you will, "deeper" into fame and filth. Seyfried might not be quite as impressive as Sarsgaard, but she and her antagonistic partner both carry the film, though not by themselves, for although the storytelling isn't as consistent as it should be, given the potential of this subject matter, there's enough inspiration on and off of the screen to make the final product a decent one, with very compelling moments, limited though they may be.
In conclusion, inconsistencies in pacing leave the film to either brush through or drag along its subject matter, which is also approached too formulaically for potential to be explored enough for the final product to come close to truly rewarding, but through a solid soundtrack and visual style which capture the '70s era, a reasonably well-characterized script, often thoughtful direction, and a pair of compelling performances by Peter Sarsgaard and Amanda Seyfried, "Lovelace" stands as a flawed, but endearing study on the success and struggles of one of the adult industry's most influential figures.
2.5/5 - Fair