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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
First off, the real Linda Lovelace changed her story a bunch of times
throughout her life (including the FOUR autobiographies she wrote):
which one are we to believe? Porn star Linda? Born again Christian
Linda? Feminist Linda? Aging and short of cash Linda? The problem with
this movie is it treats even the most bizarre tales spun by Lovelace as
the God's own truth, even though everyone else involved in any of the
porn productions she was involved in refute just about all of it.
Secondly, Amanda Seyfried is way too pretty and childlike to play Lovelace with any kind of credibility. The real Linda Lovelace always bordered on the creepy, haggard and slightly cross-eyed, and it was only her (then) highly unusual ability to 'deep throat' that she had going for her - at least the film got that part right.
Her endless self-victimizing tales, such as her porn shoots being filmed with a gun LITERALLY pressed to her head, and her becoming the most famous porn star in the world only out of fear that her family might be murdered(?), run contrary to the reports of almost everyone else she worked with, who considered this woman - who'd previously had sex with a dog on camera (oh yes, THAT wasn't mentioned in the film, was it?)- to be an inveterate liar and a 'sexual super-freak'. In her private life too, every time any of her apparently happy marriages ended, she played the victim all over again and alleged abuse from pretty much every man she was ever involved with right up until the end of her life - including Larry Marchiano, her 'happy ending' at the end of this film.
Lovelace was a very sad character wanting more than anything approval, sympathy and attention and apparently just said whatever she thought a 'good girl' should say in whatever circles she moved. As her fellow adult actress Gloria Leonard said, "This was a woman who never took responsibility for her own choices made, but instead blamed everything that happened to her in her life on porn." The story of her need to present herself in such a way, why she did it and the fall-out such behaviour caused to everyone else around her would have made a far better film.
I liked the 70s period detail, and there are some funny lines from Boardwalk Empire's Bobby Cannavale and Hank Azaria, but they're way out of place in such an oppressive, lurid nightmare fantasy depicting all the Boogie Nights-style shenanigans as simply abuse. By swallowing every bizarre allegation from this one deeply unreliable source and making her story exclusively one of victimhood we are infantilizing a grown woman, treating her even after death as a sexless child who never grew up and I found this deeply unpleasant to have to sit through.
Most of all I found it insulting to be presented with the self-pitying excuses of a pathological liar depicted as objective reality. There was absolutely no point to this movie being made, it says nothing of any value and doesn't even entertain. It was a waste of everyone's time and money, including mine.
It is debatable what differentiates a great film biography from the
rest. Arguably, a great biopic embraces the complexities of a person's
life while using storytelling to organize such intricacies. It makes
the film's subject all the more intriguing.
Poor and mediocre biopics either become blatantly overwhelmed by a life's complications, or ignore them altogether. Unfortunately, "Lovelace" chooses to ignore, and consequently misses greatness.
The woman who was born Linda Susan Boreman, and would later be better known by her stage name, Linda Lovelace, lived a very complicated, and devastatingly sad, life. This film centers on the real life Lovelace's claims of being used and abused by her first husband, Chuck Traynor, and being browbeaten into the pornography industry.
Lovelace's allegations of spousal abuse have been disputed by some, and supported by others who knew her personally, but that's beside the point. The film was right in basing its narrative solely on Lovelace's side of the story, not getting bogged down by antipathetic discrepancies. Still, there were crucial parts of her life the movie should not have left out.
For instance, "Lovelace" strongly implies that "Deep Throat" was Lovelace's first pornographic film (untrue) and her last (also untrue). It doesn't mention a stag film in which she engages in bestiality with a dog.
In one of her four books (yes, she wrote four books), she claimed that Traynor forced her to act in such movies, which would have made a good case in this movie for how controlling Traynor was. After all, having sex with a dog, especially on camera, is not an action in which most would engage willingly.
I could go on about relevant moments of the real Lovelace's life that this movie chose to ignore. However, the primary faults of "Lovelace" lie not in what they left out, but in a questionable storytelling structure where the filmmakers obviously tried to be too clever in their narrative.
Basically, the first half of the film chronicles a 21-year-old, naive Linda Boreman (Amanda Seyfried) who lives with her strict, Catholic parents (Robert Patrick and a shockingly deglamorized, unrecognizable Sharon Stone) in Florida. A charismatic, 27-year-old Chuck Traynor (Peter Sarsgaard) spots Linda at a rollerskating rink and begins dating her.
While Traynor claims to own a bar and restaurant, young Linda doesn't realize he dabbles in prostitution until after they are married, and she bails him out of jail. Eventually, Traynor coerces her into performing sexual acts on complete strangers for money before taking her to audition for pornographic movies.
From here, the film chronicles the making of the notorious "Deep Throat", the rise of Linda Lovelace, and does more than hint at the unexpected cultural impact the film creates.
Halfway through, the film makes the mistake of jumping ahead six years later (I guess circa 1980), and showing a visibly disheveled Linda taking a lie detector test administered by a publisher (Eric Roberts) in order to assess the validity of her marital abuse claims in her new autobiography, "Ordeal". The film then jumps back 8 or 9 years to show many of the same scenes over again, except adding footage at the end of each scene actually showing Traynor physically and sexually abusing Linda.
Why go back and show these scenes? The lie detector scene would have made a good narrative framework, especially since you see Amanda Seyfried look so shockingly worn down. This is not the same doe- eyed, blonde hottie from "Mamma Mia" (2008), or at least it doesn't look like her.
The point is, though, that going back and retreading all the scenes feels like a waste of time. Considering the film's running time of 93 minutes, there is no excuse for retread, especially considering Sarah Jessica Parker's well-publicized cameo as Gloria Steinem was cut out of the film altogether.
However, casting was the film's main strength, which I initially thought would be its weakness. I had my doubts about Seyfried portraying Lovelace, considering that Seyfried is exceptionally gorgeous, and the real Linda Lovelace was (Is there any way to say this nicely?) not even close. Listing actresses in this review who bear a stronger resemblance to the doomed porn starlet would probably be insulting to them.
While Seyfried donned a shaggy brunette hairstyle and freckles to deglamorize herself, she still looked a lot prettier than Lovelace on her best day. Scenes such as low-level mobster Butchie Periano (Bobby Cannavale) arguing that she is not attractive enough for the porno he is financing appear consequently more dubious.
Still, Seyfried did well with what she was given. Her best scenes include the lie-detection test, a surprisingly touching moment with an unexpectedly cordial publicity photographer (Wes Bentley), and her begging her emotionally cold mother for asylum from her abusive husband. Another scene where she is raped by five men at Traynor's behest shows little, but is still hard to watch.
While Peter Sarsgaard is effectively charismatic as Chuck Traynor, he wasn't convincing enough during the abuse scenes. Every time he threw Seyfried around, his face looked as though he would apologize to her right after the directors yelled "Cut!".
Sharon Stone, as Dorothy Boreman, had the movie's best performance, and not just because she is indistinguishable from her more glamorous roles. The scene where she does anything but console a visibly frightened Seyfried makes her eerily believable, and surprisingly multifaceted.
While the performances were well done, and "Lovelace" successfully shied away from exploitation, it suffered from fractured storytelling, awkward editing, and the vague epilogue implying that Lovelace's life only improved before her untimely death in 2002 in a car crash. If you watch the insightful documentary "Inside Deep Throat" (2005), or read Joe Bob Briggs' excellent, astute retrospective on her life (http://old.nationalreview.com/comment/comment-briggs042502.asp), you'll get a far more accurate, and grimmer, account of her life after pornography. It's sad, dismal, and, as "Lovelace" proves, a story Hollywood still does not want to tell.
I attended Lovelace at Sundance not knowing too much about the story of
Linda Lovelace. Linda Lovelace is the most famous pornography star of
all time because of the film Deep Throat (1972) which became wildly
popular with mainstream audiences and brought pornography into popular
culture. More than an indictment of the pornography business, this film
is an indictment and expose on spousal abuse. Linda married young and
was sexually and physically abused by her husband throughout her
marriage. She was forced into doing these films and acts. She
eventually found the courage to leave her husband and wrote a tell-all
which is what this movie is based on.
The way this story was structured keeps it interesting and revelatory, and tonally the film is in accordance with her life. Things start off happy and there are lots of funny moments but soon enough things take a turn for the worse and that is where the true drama ensues.
Amanda Seyfried may not seem like the right choice for the role but she handles herself and the material with ease. She does a fabulous job evoking a wide range of emotions and brings her performance to a previously unseen level (at least, from what I've seen of hers). Peter Sarsgaard naturally exudes kindness and charm, we are seduced by it as she is, yet when the time calls for it he is rightly overpowering and terrifying.
Directors Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman started off making documentaries that were both important and compelling. They made the switch to traditional narrative films with Howl which showcased their talent but Lovelace is further proof that they are multi-talented and continuing to grow in skill.
The film does leave out a few things, most likely for the sake of the narrative, Linda was forced to participate in several short pornography loops before she appeared in Deep Throat, including a bestiality film. She also made two movies after Deep Throat (including Deep Throat II).
The film has instant notoriety for its connection to Deep Throat and hopefully this will drive a bigger audience to it but it will likely gain some controversy as well for its association (in fact there was a small group protesting it at the premiere which is utterly ridiculous). I hope this film gets a large audience as marital abuse in its many forms is far too common a problem and needs to be brought to the forefront of discussion.
Lovelace is an odd film in that it's really two films wrapped into one.
The first film is a rather light 70s set piece about the porn business
very reminiscent of the film Boogie Nights, with great performances by
Mama Mia's Amanda Seyfried (holding her own even though she is much too
pretty to play Linda Lovelace) as well as Peter Sarsgaard as her creepy
husband who has no qualms about prostituting his wife out for a buck.
Sharon Stone is just fantastic as Linda's mother (you won't even
recognize her) and Robert Patrick (of Terminator 2) as her father, and
the supporting cast is also perfect, including Boardwalk Empire's Bobby
Cannavale and even James Franco playing Hugh Hefner. There is a bit of
foreshadowing about what the second film is going to be about, such as
when Linda's co-star alludes to the bruises on Linda's leg and also
some questionable looks by her husband, but otherwise the movie plays
out as a strongly R-rated biopic delivering quite a few laughs.
Then, suddenly, we are thrown into the second film, a PG-13 Lifetime Network-like drama including violins playing. The second film retells the first film, showing the behind the scenes abuse Linda receives from her husband and portraying Linda as someone who is doing it all reluctantly and is trying to escape the porn business. The stark contrast between the second and first films would be more effective if the second film wasn't so formulaic--it even has a gift wrapped happy ending. I imagine the truth of Linda's life falls somewhere in the middle, with Linda's own bad judgment playing at least some part in her life's situation. Unfortunately, although Amanda Seyfried is lovely in the first film as the naive young newlywed getting caught up in the porn business, she isn't reinvented and just doesn't transcend in the more watered down drama of second film like, say, Charlize Theron was in the film Monster. There just aren't any great performance by anyone in the second film as a matter of fact and the scenes that are suppose to be brutal just aren't. When it comes to showing the ugly side of the porn biz this film peters out.
Lovelace, therefore, stands as a slightly above average and obviously heavily fictionalized biopic, when it could and should have been much more, if only some more guts were put into the second half of it.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The brilliantly structured "Lovelace" is two films. Neither is
The comedic first third is a polished turd showcasing Linda's glitzy rise to fame as the star of "Deep Throat." The film then takes a very hard one-eighty to become the grim tale of a battered (and far worse) wife literally dragged kicking and screaming to a porn set.
"Deep Throat" was the first porn film to crossover to polite society from the perv-in-raincoat crowd (though the latter showed up in droves as well). In "Deep Throat," unfulfilled Linda Lovelace searches in vain for sexual satisfaction until a Doctor discovers her clitoris has migrated to the back of her throat leaving one method to achieve orgasm. In "Lovelace," Linda searches for herself. The tight audio montage at the film's open asks many questions about her.
Who is Linda Lovelace? Offspring of a harsh, domineering disciplinarian mother and uncaring, absent father. (An offscreen pregnancy drives the family from the Bronx to Florida.) A naive and sexually repressed young woman opened by an abusive husband. A porn star bearing the standard of the sexual revolution. A middle class mom who desires setting the record straight through the autobiography, "Ordeal." Or an advocate battling domestic violence.
Amanda Seyfried bares all, but is as flat as month old soda in the title role. Sarsgaard semi-phones in his performance as Chuck, Linda's scumbag husband. The film is peppered with cameos from Sharon Stone to Eric Roberts and the venerable Debi Mazar. Their appearances add little to the proceedings.
The resulting film, given the incendiary topic, is politically correct, sleepy, excessively loose and ineffectual. As portrayed, after being released from Chuck's oily grasp by a porn Producer, Linda continues to ooze unhappiness to a denouement that's a half-hearted reunion with mortified parents.
Though a worthy topic, the treatment of abuse is didactic and heavy handed: a path to collar pulling and discomfort.
Factually, the real Lovelace (née Boreman) heavily promoted "Deep Throat," denied performing in several bestiality and humiliation films until they were produced to jog her memory, posed in "Playboy," and was categorized as, "a sexual 'super freak' who had no boundaries and was a pathological liar." There's also a psychologist's view she suffered from PTSD.
"Lovelace" fails to answer the questions posed at the film's open. They may be too difficult to be answered. Linda may just be that complex. Or slippery.
Given the documentary "Inside Deep Throat" and a plethora of other films and books, there's little reason for "Lovelace" to exist - at least in this sanitized form. Linda was a victim, but here the viewers are victimized by the filmmakers. Now you know how Linda (allegedly) felt.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The twist in this movie is when Linda Lovelace is suddenly portrayed as a victim rather than a willing participant in the porn industry. I didn't buy it. Even after many many attempts to show her as the victim, it seemed she always had numerous ways out. And she was never a woman without means to get away (surrounded by lots of coworkers and friends, many of whom implored her to fess up, and were rich and loved her or saw her as an extremely lucrative meal ticket). Over and over this movie tried to portray her as naive and innocent, i.e., she didn't realize she was auditioning for a porn film. I wonder what she thought was on the film her husband brought into the audition (spoiler alert, it was her doing what she became famous for)? It doesn't really matter how good the actors were, the script was childish and insulting to anyone with a second grade education. I can't imagine why so many well known celebrities chose to participate (maybe they didn't realize they were auditioning for a movie about a porn star). Since both lead characters real-life counterparts have died, the filmmakers could take ridiculous liberties with the story. They were definitely given the shaft.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This bio of Linda Lovelace is nothing more than a poor telling of a
fairly dull story made somehow even duller.
The first thing that strikes anyone who knows anything about the back story or Linda herself will realize that LL was not a very attractive woman so picking the very cute Amanda Seyfried for the role was a bad move to begin with. LL had a major scar on her chin from a car accident, but in this movie she does not.
Seyfried is way too innocent and childlike in her acting, the real Linda was a bit rough around the edges and a pretty wild girl, I mean she had sex with dogs in a few shorts before Deep Throat, all this is left out in the film.
"When they need a 65 year old woman to do an X-rated movie and I'm 65 I'll just be ready to do it" - LL
The movie is full of factual errors and anachronisms, some of them are just so obvious it's just silly and LL story has changed so many times over the years no one knows the real truth, but I assume the abuse was real.
DT was not filmed in widescreen but is shown in the theater as if it was.
The car in the intro to DT was a blue 1970 Caddy Eldorado hardtop, not a red convertible.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I was looking forward to seeing Lovelace since I heard about its
announcement. The cast makes a case for seeing the film regardless of
what the film is actually about. I think the story of Deepthroat as
well as that of Traynor and Lovelace are both very intriguing. Despite
having all of this going for it, I was let down. The pacing of the film
is the biggest problem. The film leisurely introduces us to the cast
and the relationship between Traynor and Lovelace, so leisurely in fact
that I was wondering when the darker elements would be exposed. At only
92 minutes the film feels a lot longer. Anyone with any knowledge of
the story at all will wonder how they're going to wrap it up as the
film meanders only to make abrupt leaps in time.
It makes sense that the directors chose to end the film in 1980 as opposed to 1984, because any longer and the film would have felt interminable. This does hurt the film, though. The way the subsequent events of 1980 are handled is rushed to the point that it feels amateurish. I imagine the pieces that were cut could have been included had there been a tighter edit of the rest of the film as a whole. The way the narrative is handled is wise - cutting back to show different interpretations of the story - because so many have disputed Lovelace's claims.
All that being said,the film has its entertaining sequences - mostly thanks to the performances which are great. Also, the production design never feels hokey or inauthentic (which easily could have been the case). Another issue is that the brutality of what Lovelace claims to have endured is watered down here (for obvious reasons), but it always feels like they could have pushed it further. The scenes of abuse seem so choreographed (and rushed) that it is hard to feel the weight or emotional impact that is intended. All of the threat and malice is left up to Seyfried to make real, which she delivers on, but it shouldn't be entirely on her. Even Sarsgaard's cruel moments as Traynor don't match the sleazy charm he conveys at other points in the film. It's as if the filmmakers just expect the top notch set decoration and costumes to be enough to convince us of the terrible events just by bringing them up. At one point Linda cries to her mother (Sharon Stone) that her husband hits her; sure we see him toss her around but the domestic violence is mostly implied and it feels cowardly. That's the problem, in too many ways the film just stops at almost.
An impressive cast lending their talents to a fascinating story,
Lovelace brings Amanda Seyfried, Peter Sarsgaard, Sharon Stone, Robert
Patrick, Chris Noth, Adam Brody, James Franco and Eric Roberts together
to portray characters in the life of Linda Lovelace, a one-shot porn
actress that made headlines back in 1972 as star of the blue movie,
Amanda Seyfried plays Linda, a shy and fairly innocent young girl who falls for Chuck (Peter Sarsgaard) , a mostly manipulative manager/pimp that eventually becomes Linda's husband. Lovelace begins shortly before Linda meets Chuck and establishes Linda's home life with her parents (played by Robert Patrick and an unrecognizable Sharon Stone).
We first meet Chuck as he lays eyes on Linda at a roller skating rink where Linda does an impromptu dance in front of the live band. Chuck woos the younger Linda using his charm and the alluring freedom of his adult lifestyle to eventually bring Linda to a point where she moves out of her home.
The inexperienced Linda is comfortable enough to have Chuck film her giving him oral pleasure and Chuck takes his Super 8 home movie to Butchie Peraino and Gerry Damiano (Bobby Cannavale and Hank Azaria) who are so enthralled with Linda's oral sex talents that they immediately get producer Anthony Romano to provide the funds to make a film that will eventually become Deep Throat.
We get a few topless scenes of Seyfried emulating the famous porn star of the era and enjoying her fame until everything falls like a house of cards due to Chucks violent manner and his insistence that Linda have sex with multiple partners for the purposes of his own financial gain and notoriety.
The film takes us beyond the filming of Deep Throat and we watch as Linda copes with how the film put a strain on the relationship with her parents and through her book deal and talk show circuit appearances where she vehemently denounced pornography.
Laden with a talented cast, Lovelace fails to either have audiences find fault or fall in love with our title character. Everyone in the production come across as characters rather than actual people so it is hard for a viewing audience to attach themselves good or bad to any of the competent actors that make up the casting call.
Directors Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman simply don't chisel away at the inner character or either Chuck or Linda with enough feeling to make this a well rounded bio-pic. Instead, it flat-lines with any pulse and does nothing more that attempt to be an exploitation flick about an exploitation flick. Even as the time is captured fairly well in the styles and moods of the early 70's, it ultimately fails in capturing much of anything else including our attention.
The final title cards might have been the most interesting revelations of the entire films. That Linda Lovelace died from injuries suffered in a car accident at age 53. That Chuck Traynor went on to marry another famous actress in the porn industry in his nuptials to Marilyn Chambers. And how the movie Deep Throat went on to become the most successful porn film of all-time raking in hundreds of millions while Linda collected less than $2,000 for her starring role.
If you have always been interested with the film Deep Throat or the incredible life of Linda Lovelace, you may want to seek out any of the documentaries or A&E specials on the topic. Because Lovelace will just leave you superficially satisfied.
Expecting to see something that resembled more of a Linda Lovelace
biopic, I must admit that I was a bit disappointed to find out that
"Lovelace" only examines a small portion of her life and the abusive
relationship with her husband during the making of 1972's "Deep Throat"
(arguably the most popular adult film of all time). But as I started
watching this, my disappointment only grew as I witnessed what
directors Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman had done with this material
(material which had such dark dramatic potential) utterly mangling the
construction of the story and, to add insult to injury, transforming
this film into nothing more than a by-the-numbers, woman empowerment,
Lifetime channel movie of the week
Not saying that Amanda Seyfried (who plays Linda Lovelace) and Peter Sarsgaard (who plays her husband, Chuck) don't do their best with the material given. They are actually quite good in this. And with the help of some excellent supporting work from the likes of Sharon Stone, who is almost unrecognizable as Linda's mother and Bobby Cannavale who plays a producer, the acting is the best part of this movie.
OK, so yes, James Franco is laughable as young Hugh Hefner, but the real black eye on the face of "Lovelace" has to be Epstein and Friedman's direction.
The following is a rundown of how Epstein and Friedman nearly single handedly ruined this movie; act by act: Act One: Cramming an insane amount of old television footage down our throats with the sole purpose of making sure we (the audience) realize that this movie is set in the 70's, the first 40 minutes of "Lovelace" tells the story of how Linda and Chuck meet, fall in love and how Chuck introduces Linda into the world of porn. Sounds interesting enough, right? Well, it would have been if not for direction that chose to outright disregard character development for an entire act. Example: Linda and Chuck fall in love in like 2 seconds. Next thing we know, its 6 months later and she's inexplicably on the set of "Deep Throat". Next thing we know, Linda is getting beat by Chuck. In other words, in the first half of this film, we have no context for anybody's motivations. We don't really get to see any conversations that have any sort of weight behind them or contain any real emotional transformations. And the fact that there is no back-story to be found for nearly half of this film, handicaps the viewers from becoming personally invested in any of the characters.
Act Two: The second act changes gears completely, as Epstein and Friedman attempt to push "Lovelace" into the realm of "dark-drama". Here we (the audience) finally get to see meaningful conflicts between Linda and her mother, Linda and Chuck, Linda and her Father and the producers and Chuck. And during these conflicts we actually begin to learn a little about each character's motivations and in turn, begin to sympathize with Linda as a person. The problem with act two is that all of these moments are shown via flashback, as Epstein and Friedman actually take us back to the beginning of the story and essentially fill in the character development blanks from the first act. But this backtracking shines as a prime example of too little too late, as many will have lost interest in the story itself by this point.
Act Three: From the momentum of the second act, I truly believed that "Lovelace" was on the upswing. Boy, was I wrong. At the point where we begin to catch a glimpse of a riveting film, "Lovelace" changes gears once again and irritatingly settles on a climax worthy of a Lifetime redemption movie of the week.
Final Thought: Within the second act (the fill in the blank portion of this film) "Lovelace" is laced with some dark and well filmed sequences. But by the time we get to this point, the lack of character development in conjunction with direction lacking in coherent construction, will have made it so that we not only don't care about the characters but the story as well. Overall, "Lovelace" is a misguided attempt at filmmaking and an outright boring look into the world of pornography. Oh, and not to make light of domestic violence, but if anybody tells you that this movie is on par with "Boogie Nights", you have my permission to punch them in the face.
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