This film is structured oddly. During the first hour or so, it delights in all the sex, fashion, sex, riches, and sex, and while it isn't nearly as seductive as Boogie Nights or as a wild as The Wolf of Wall Street, Amanda Seyfried's doe eyes certainly make it attractive. The second hour is dedicated to making us feel guilty about having fun. As a result the film becomes a reproach of the porn industry. This is fine, but the structure of the film seems aggressive and didactic.
Peter Sarsgaard is actually bad. It's shocking, but his Ike Turner impression is cliched and without depth. Amanda Seyfried is perfect for Lovelace, but the film doesn't give her much to play with. She is allowed to be sexy, and she is; she is allowed to be a victim, and she is; she is allowed to be triumphant, and she is. But the beats between these transitions aren't fully explored.
Overall, this film had a lot of potential, but it doesn't live up to it.
What we get here is a biopic of Linda Boreman, better known by her stage name Linda Lovelace-arguably one of the first legends from the Golden Age of Pornography.
The film follows her from her humble beginnings growing up in a strict Catholic home, to her career making performance in the groundbreaking porno film Deep Throat, her eventual move out of the porn industry, and, most notably, her tumultuous relationship with abusive, controlling scumbag Chuck Traynor. This relationship actually coincides with all the other events of the story, well, save for the end which depicts Linda's campaigning against pornography and domestic abuse.
What's notable about the film is its somewhat subversive narrative structure. We get a glossy, 'fun' version of the story: the typical rise, fall, recovery scenario, and then at the half way point, we revisit the majority of what we just saw, only the second time around, we get the 'real' version of events, showing what was actually going on, especially behind the scenes, and revealing just how bad Linda's life unfortunately was.
That's not to say the first half is a cheat. It's gets dark at times, but it mostly shows how much of the world saw Linda and Chuck, and how they perceived things, whereas the second half shows just how unfortunate and mistreated and unlucky this seemingly lucky girl actually had it. To add insult to injury,people thought that when Linda published a tell-all book called Ordeal in 1980 that she was making it up. That's even more depressing.
Here's the thing though: this film isn't actually all that uneven, and the shift between the halves, while a bit jarring, isn't quite as dramatic as it was in something like From Dusk Till Dawn.
Yeah, the film does get pretty heavy and disturbing as it goes on, but I think it's earned. It's fun when it needs to be, and it does a decent job of juggling the perceptions with the reality. I do think that the film could have done a better job of addressing how Linda herself felt about her perception versus her reality. Also, while the film isn't hollow and shallow, I think it could have been a lot meatier and a little more in depth, especially on a psychological level.
The film doesn't hits the heights that Boogie Nights did, but it makes for an interesting companion piece, and together, both films help paint an engaging portrait of the Golden Age of Porn.
Despite the narrative technique, the film overall hits the conventions one expects of a typical biopic. Sure, that's a bit of a downer, but I do like that the filmmaker's didn't get too shy about showing the grittier stuff. Yeah, the truth about some of this is debatable, but one can't deny that CHuck was a supreme asshole, and that Linda definitely suffered at his hands. The real issue is o what degree it was all at.
Amanda Seyfried, though not a dead ringer, is quite good as Lovelace, and this is easily one of her best performances. Peter Sarsgaard is also quite good as Traynor, though the film almost has it too easy when it comes to getting sympathy for Linda, because of course the audience will hate Chuck. Still, Sarsgaard doesn't simply phone it in. He really is great at being loathsome. As Linda's parents we get some fine supporting work from Sharon Stone and Robert Patrick, and then there's Hank Azaria and Bobby Cannavale in some scene stealing work as pornographers. Adam Brody appears as Harry Reems, and , while he's not quite hairy enough, he still does okay I suppose. There's also a quick cameo from James Franco as Hugh Hefner. Odd. But, Okay I suppose.
The film does a great job with the music and the period details, and it's also fun seeing recreations of the making of Deep Throat.
No one will ever truly know exactly what happened between Chuck and Linda, but I'm not sue if that matters. Bottom line: the woman just wanted to be special, and through bad luck and circumstance suffered through a hellacious period of several years before finally getting out and taking a stand, thus laying the ground work for future activism and awareness.
This film ain't perfect, but it is quite engaging, informative, and has some fine performances, so yeah, give it a go.
Amanda Seyfried does a great job as Linda. Very convincing.
Quite harrowing to watch in places. I knew next to nothing about Linda going into this, so I didn't realise it would be about domestic violence also. Never a pleasant topic, but handled quite well here.
The movie could have gone a little deeper (no pun intended) in a few places. Sometimes the motives weren't entirely clear, but again, with Linda's biography being a bit unreliable, perhaps that's because enough isn't actually known. It is hard to buy her story about being forced into porn when you find out through other sources (not mentioned in this film) that Deep Throat was far from Linda's first movie and she has a lovely back catalogue including beastiality movies.
However, still an interesting movie and cast are excellent.
Early on in Epstein and Friedman's biopic, Linda and Chuck have a discussion about 'The French Connection'. Nothing remarkable about that, apart from the fact that the scene is set in 1970, a year before William Friedkin's hit film would hit theaters. Still in 1970, we see Linda visit a roller disco, a concept that wouldn't appear until the mid-seventies. In a scene set in 1972, a character puts on George McRae's 'Rock Your Baby', a record that wouldn't be released until 1974. As someone with a trainspotting obsession with seventies pop culture, I found these moments particularly annoying but they also tell you the film-makers don't really care about their work. I suspect Lovelace was chosen as a film subject only because every other interesting figure of the era had already been covered. The pair relate her story in such a bland and lackluster manner, it's hard to believe it was ever one they really wanted to tell.
Using her much-disputed biography, 'Ordeal', as a template, the film portrays Lovelace as a mousy victim rather than the strong figure who became a feminist icon in the seventies. The main thrust of the narrative focuses on the physical abuse she claims to have endured from Traynor. There are so many blatant lies in the film, however, that it completely discredits this narrative, making it an insult to women who actually received such abuse.
The film aims for a conservative audience and so twists history in an attempt to distance Lovelace from her involvement in porn. If this movie is to be believed, 'Deep Throat' is the one and only porno on her CV. "I only worked in the pornographic industry for 17 days", Lovelace claims on a chat show at one point here. In reality, Lovelace had several "movies" under her belt by the time she made her most famous film, including bestiality flicks involving dogs. Post-'Deep Throat', she also starred in its sequel and several cash-ins.
The portrayal of her second husband, Larry Marchiano, is completely sugar-coated here, showing him as the factor that changed her life for the better. In real life, however, Marchiano was an alcoholic who occasionally beat Linda. This wouldn't fit in with the film's conservative agenda, of course.
Apart from all this, Seyfried is frightfully miscast. Part of the cultural appeal of 'Deep Throat' was that it featured a star who looked nothing like a typical porn actress. Seyfried is far too conventionally attractive for the role and a scene where Damiano claims she looks too much like 'The girl next door' makes you wonder what kind of street he lives on. It doesn't help that her performance is terrible and wouldn't be out of place in an actual porno. Likewise Sarsgard, who couldn't be a more stereotypical seventies sleazebag. The time-manipulating structure of the film tries to shock us with the revelation that he wasn't a very nice guy but from his first appearance on screen Sarsgard comes across as a supreme scuzzball.
Ultimately, it's likely Epstein and Friedman have cut off their noses to spite their faces by making a film aimed at satisfying the sort of conservative viewers who are highly unlikely to purchase a ticket for a pornstar biopic.
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
If there's an aspect of Lovelace that is the most effective part of the film, it would surely have to be the leading performances from Amanda Seyfried and Peter Sarsgaard. Seyfried inhibits the vulnerable and unassuming demeanor of Lovelace well, while also maintaining a sort of allure to her. Sarsgaard was the most impressive of the two, completely inhibiting his character in to a controlling, nefarious, unstable, yet sly Chuck Traynor, who orchestrated the circumstances of production. The abusive relationship between the two makes for a compelling story, and is the most well done narrative element of the film.
Where Lovelace struggled was on the exact character arc of the title character herself. Her realization of how destructive the life was did not take place until the very end, yet we never fully witnessed this transition. Her personality, in fact, seems consistent from the onset, initially reserved by easily allured. Had the film given us more insight in to her character, and how she evolved, the film would have been more successful.
Overall--not in the same league as Boogie Nights, but a strong film nonetheless.
The film itself feels unfocused. The structure of the film seems off. The 3 act structure goes like this: the making of Deep Throat, the abuse Chuck gave Linda, and reconciliation. I found all the making of Deep Throat very interesting. The film is not Boogie Nights. It kind of reminded me of movies like Monster, Bad Ass, and the People Vs Larry Flynt.
I recommend the film, especially for the performances.
I try-these days, anyway (I make no promises of same in my vault reviews)-to limit my comments about actors of either sex to their performances rather than their looks, other than a generic comment here and there about eye candy when it's obvious that a writer obviously put in a part of Nameless Hot Blonde (especially in a lead role). But given the subject matter and the thrust, no pun intended, of Lovelace, I think it's fair to open this review by saying that from the moment I set eyes on a nineteen-year-old actress named Amanda Seyfried in 2004's phenomenal comedy Mean Girls, I developed a life-size crush on her. I think she is, in the vernacular, crazy gorgeous, one of those actresses who usually ends up getting cast as the hanger-on (viz. Mean Girls) or the mousy best friend (Jennifer's Body, about which Seyfried was the only thing worth watching) when she's the prettiest woman in the room. (At least she's got job security, since Janeane Garofalo, who was often relegated to those same roles, seems to have chosen to focus more on TV these days.) So as soon as I heard she was going to be starring in a Linda Lovelace biopic, I was champing at the bit. One of the most beautiful women in the world playing one of the most famous porn stars in the world? How could this go wrong? That turns out to be a far more complex question than it probably deserves to be, and because of that, I watched Lovelace almost a month ago as I write these words, and I'm still pondering the question. That leads me to believe the film is maybe more worth your time than I initially believed. But I am, as usual, getting ahead of myself.
If you've lived in a cave for the past forty-odd years, Lovelace is the tale of the world's most famous porn star, Linda Lovelace (Seyfried). It starts when she and a friend, as rebellious teenagers, sneak out of the house to the roller rink and bump into Chuck Traynor (Orphan's Peter Sarsgaard), who sees something ineffable in Linda-a combination of beauty, insecurity, and naiveté, perhaps-and decides to try and mold her into a cash cow. (Literally, towards the end of the film.) Linda decides to go along for the ride, only finding out too late that Traynor stopped being the nice guy when the cash stopped rolling in. Along the way, however, Linda and Chuck befriended a number of the nascent porn industry's movers and shakers; meanwhile, Linda Lovelace, ironically given her situation, came as close as anyone ever has to legitimizing the industry. We all know how that turned out, but it's still fun to watch.
Towards the end of the film, there's a voiceover that starts out "You know, I spent exactly seventeen days in the porn industry...". That is, simply, untrue. Peter Sotos, among others, has written extensively about the depths to which Traynor's abuse of Lovelace sunk. I wouldn't say the filmmakers shied away from that material so much as swept it so far under the rug it never even had a chance to meet the cutting room floor. (Suffice to say Traynor directed Lovelace in a number of two-reelers that were, shall we say, oriented to vertical markets late in her career. If Sotos is to be believed, copies are some of the most highly sought-after pieces of pornography in existence; they have never been mass-duplicated, as some of the acts depicted therein are illegal in many places.) I bring this up because it's synecdochic of the whole movie. I have heard Chaplin (1992) defended by people saying "if you're going to make a film about a shallow person, your film should be shallow", and there is an argument to be made there. However, it almost seems to me that Epstein and Friedman went the other way here; they took an extremely sordid tale and, while I understand that if you're going to get an R rating you have to sanitize things for Hollywood, they might has well have kept the nipples covered and gone for the relatively easy PG-13 with this one. They couldn't have made a more obvious, and more platformy, cautionary tale if they're tried.
Oh, wait a minute. ** 1/2