Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Movie Review: Lovelace

Directed by: Rob Epstein & Jeffrey Friedman.
Written by: Andy Bellin.
Starring: Amanda Seyfried (Linda), Peter Sarsgaard (Chuck), Sharon Stone (Dorothy Boreman), Robert Patrick (John Boreman), Juno Temple (Patsy), Chris Noth (Anthony Romano), Bobby Cannavale (Butchie Peraino), Hank Azaria (Gerry Damiano), Adam Brody (Harry Reems), ChloĆ« Sevigny (Feminist Journalist), James Franco (Hugh Hefner), Debi Mazar (Dolly), Wes Bentley (Thomas – Photographer), Eric Roberts (Nat Laurendi).

There is no doubt that Linda Lovelace lived a fascinating enough life to warrant a biopic being made about her. She became a “star” in the early 1970s, when her film Deep Throat, was released and crossed over from a porn hit into a legitimate hit – largely because of her skills, and the humor of the movie. At the time she was married to Chuck Traynor who abused her, forced her into prostitution at times, and into doing the movie. While she wanted to be a star – she didn’t want to do what she did to become one. That she went from abused wife to porn star to anti-porn activist should make for a fascinating biopic. Unfortunately, Rob Epstein & Jeffrey Friedman’s Lovelace plays more like a Made for TV movie than anything else.

When we first meet Linda (Amanda Seyfried), she is a teenager living at home with her conservative parents (a de-glamorized Sharon Stone, and Robert Patrick). She has already had some troubles in her life – including a child she was forced to give up – but she wants to be a good girl – and live a normal life. She meets Chuck (Peter Sarsgaard) – and everything seems perfect. He’s fun, he’s charming, he’s good looking, he has money and he adores her. She marries him without really thinking about it too much – and that is where the trouble starts. Chuck has some contacts with the adult film industry – and thinks Linda would be a perfect star – at first, they remained unconvinced. She’s too sweet and nice – not the kind of girl you see in porn. Then Chuck shows them a movie that highlight Linda’s, um, “oral skills” – and they’re sold. The rest is history.

The most interesting thing about Lovelace the movie is the structure. Like Paul Thomas Anderson’s Boogie Nights, the first half of the film makes porn look like a fun party – and the second half makes it look like a living hell. Unlike Anderson’s film however, the two halves of Lovelace actually tell the same story – just from a different point of view. What seems like fun the first time through, isn’t fun at all when what we see – or what we thought we saw – is put into context.

The movie does benefit from the two lead performances. Seyfried has the right wide-eyed innocence to play Linda – to convince us that she could so easily fall for Chuck, and then continue down the road he sets for her for too long. And Sarsgaard adds another of his sleaze balls to his resume – although perhaps he could have eased up on the sleaze a little bit in the earlier moments of the movie, since we know from the start he’s up to no good. For the most part the rest of the cast – played by recognizable actors like Chris Noth, Bobby Cannavale, Hank Azaria, Adam Brody and especially James Franco as Hugh Hefner, are more of a distraction than anything else. They aren’t really given characters to play, so they’re just kind of there.

The movie holds our interest because of Seyfried, Sarsgaard and the interesting structure. But the film is never very enlightening either. Personally, I would have liked to see a little more of Linda’s life – her early years that made her susceptible to someone like Traynor in the first place, and how exactly she picked herself up to, remarried, and became a mother and an anti-porn activist. You can make a movie like this and have it be great – Bob Fosse’ excellent, underrated final film Star 80 (1983) told a similar, although even darker story (and perhaps casting the star of that film, Eric Roberts, in a cameo is a nod to that film) and was brilliant. If nothing else though, Lovelace does act as a corrective to a previous film – the documentary Inside Deep Throat (2005) which pretty much celebrated the film, and ignored Lovelace and the pain she went through to make it. That’s something – not enough perhaps – but something.

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