Directed by Rob Epstein, Jeffrey Friedman
Starring Amanda Seyfried, Peter Sarsgaard, Sharon Stone, Robert Patrick
Rating: 5 out of 10
There’s an interesting, perhaps even good, movie to be made from the story of Deep Throat and its star, Linda Lovelace. Even though it has moments of almost brilliance and some fine performances, Lovelace’s scantily clad script does a disservice to the story behind the world’s first mainstream porn film.
In fact, Lovelace, which was released yesterday to VOD, iTunes, and theaters, isn’t sure what story it wants to tell: scintillating behind-the scenes tell-all or a cautionary tale of a small-town girl being lead astray by the wrong guy? It actually tries for both, separating the film into two acts told from different perspectives.
Act One is the love story between Linda and her husband, Chuck Trayner, who convinces a starry-eyed girl with an unusual talent to give pornography a chance. She auditions, cute as a button, the proverbial girl-next-door. She gets the part and finds herself in a limelight she didn’t ask for but that she seemingly embraces, running in circles that include Sammy Davis Jr. and Hugh Hefner.
Cue Act Two. Linda and Chuck’s story is actually a nightmare. He controls and dominates her, forcing her into pornography to pay off his bad debts. She makes $1250 for her work in Deep Throat. (The movie goes on to gross upwards of half a billion dollars.) Hubby borrows more, creates an industry around the degradation of his infamous wife. When she speaks out of turn, dares to take a moment to enjoy her new found stardom, or, goodness forbid, talks to others about the money she might earn, he brutalizes and humiliates her. Eventually she gets away (even though the film never addresses how), marries another man, has a child, and writes a book about her horrific marriage and her, as it’s put in the film, “17 minutes working in the porn industry.”
Both acts run about 40 minutes each. Maybe there wasn’t enough time. Maybe the filmmakers were too ambitious to try and tell Linda’s story as well as that of Deep Throat’s. Maybe I’m just making excuses. Ultimately, there’s no meat (sorry, bad pun…not the first here and it won't be the last) to either story. So much could have been done with Linda’s story alone: here was a woman who was exploited in the worst possible way. She was forced into pornography by an abusive husband and kept under his thumb by a society—even at the height of supposed sexual and feminist revolutions—that valued and forced a woman’s deference to her man. But, somehow, despite these odds compounded by the allure of stardom, she got away and found a way to find herself and a normal life. THAT is the movie I want to see. Lovelace is a squandered opportunity.
That isn’t to say there isn’t something to like about Lovelace. That something, or someone as the case may be, is Amanda Seyfried. I remember her mostly as the eldest daughter on HBO’s Big Love and while she was fine there, she’s stellar as Linda—her doe eyes are perfect to convey the innocent-cum-seductive nature of Linda. Even though she isn’t given much to work with, Seyfried makes Linda feel like a real person, someone who is bigger and more important than the porn film for which she's best known.
The supporting cast is also strong, especially Sharon Stone and Robert Patrick as Linda’s long-suffering mother and father. There’s one scene in particular in which Linda’s father admits to having seen his daughter’s film that’s heartbreaking and hints at what this film could have been.
Overall, Lovelace isn’t a disaster; at times it’s even interesting, but it’s not the film this story deserves. Lovelace was caught in production hell for a couple of years. At one point, the train-wreck-formerly-known-as-Lindsey-Lohan was cast as Linda. Lindsey, in her sober days, might have been able to pull off the role and do it well, but producers clearly saw a need to move on with someone new. It’s just too bad they didn’t do the same after re-reading the script.