It’s tough to talk about a film like Lovelace because it deals with sex and pornography in a frank manner and there are people out there who either become giggling schoolchildren or sweaty pocket fumblers at the mere mention of something vaguely erotic. I don’t often open with insulting my potential audience, but it’s kind of important to put a dampener on that whole attitude. Here’s the thing, despite the upbeat ’70s music and kitschy titles, Lovelace isn’t about what a sleazy old jaunt it was making one of the most famous “blue movies” of all time. It’s about control, deception and the very ugliest sides of human nature.
Lovelace tells the story of Linda Boreman (Amanda Seyfried) a young woman who is coerced by her boyfriend (later husband) Chuck Traynor (Peter Sarsgaard) into the world of pornography. She adopts the stage name of Linda Lovelace and stars in Deep Throat which soon becomes a cultural phenomenon and rakes in the big bucks at the box office. Tell you what, the cast are superb. Amanda Seyfried fearlessly jumps into the role, giving us a believable wide-eyed naïve turn one minute and an emotionally devastated and shellshocked husk the next. Peter Sarsgaard turned playing a sleazy bastard into an art form long ago and is brilliant as the truly destestable Chuck. Sharon Stone and Robert “T-1000” Patrick also work well as Linda’s parents, despite Linda’s mother being portrayed as worse than 50 Hitlers. James Franco also makes an appearance as a young Hugh Hefner, but it’s a glorified cameo role. Same with Hank Azaria’s Gerry Damiano, the director of Deep Throat, who is promptly forgotten about once the film is in the can.
Boreman’s tale is a tragic one, make no mistake. Lovelace makes admirable steps to conveying this, but it all ultimately falls short. It feels strangely contained and too clean cut for its own good. Directors Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman have won a barrel of awards between them for various documentaries, with Epstein having won two Oscars for his previous work. Considering all this, it strikes me as strange that they seem to have little to no interest in making the film particularly real feeling. The film swings the dramatic sledgehammer too often, usually when a deft touch or little tweak would have been substantially more powerful. The tragedy is the fact that this shit actually happened. There seems to be no time for little character moments or anyone to act particularly natural. Part of this is Andy Bellin’s stilted script that’s too interested in the “how things happened” rather than the “why things happened”.
The film pulls the trick of making everything sunny, smutty fun in the beginning and then spooling back to show you the true nature of what went on. It’s a neat idea, gravid with dramatic potential, but it’s so heavy-handed with it, it makes you aware you’re just watching a film, rather than watching a woman’s life fall apart. There’s a decent little moment where Linda is getting her make-up done by her co-star Dolly (Debi Mazar) and Dolly runs afoul of the “pretty intense” Chuck, commenting she used to have a similar partner. After he swaggers off, she notices the bruising on Linda’s legs. Linda dismisses it as her being “clumsy” and Dolly replies “I know, sweetie. We all are.” It conveys a lot without having to hit you over the head and I honestly wish there was more of that subtlety in play elsewhere.
The film isn’t bad by any stretch, I just wanted it to be more honest. Lovelace’s life wasn’t a neat little open-and-shut case. It was a messy, saddening tale. It also cut out a lot of the interesting things going on outside of Deep Throat’s success. Richard Nixon’s sanctimonious obscenity acts being passed and the film being used as a scapegoat would have been a decent thing for context, especially as one of Lovelace’s co-stars- Harry Reems (played by the likable Adam Brody in the film) was threatened with imprisonment under said laws. It barely focuses on the massive anti-pornography spokesperson that Boreman became, which I thought would have been important if this film was trying to convey just who this person was. It also doesn’t have the sting in the tail that I was expecting, choosing to sum it all up with white text, rather than dramatise. Post porn, Linda Boreman/Marchiano became adamant that her true story be known. To be honest, I’m not sure this is the best way to honour that wish. My mark of a good biopic is when you walk away with a real idea of what made the subject special and film-worthy in the first place. I did get that with Lovelace, but further research made me realise what the film should have been. It’s decent enough, but certainly shouldn’t be taken as all you need to know about the freckled girl next door and the lessons to be learned from her life.
DVD/BD Release Date:
23rd December 2013 (UK)
Rob Epstein, Jeffrey Friedman
Amanda Seyfried, Peter Sarsgaard ,Sharon Stone, Robert Patrick, Juno Temple
Buy:Lovelace [DVD] / [Blu-ray + UV Copy]