Amanda Seyfried as Linda Lovelace and James Franco as Hugh Hefner in Lovelace
Film Title: Lovelace
Director: Rob Epstein , Jeffrey Friedman
Starring: Amanda Seyfried, Peter Sarsgaard, Sharon Stone, Adam Brody, Juno Temple
Running Time: 93 min
The folk behind this study of the late Linda Boreman – who gained grim fame as pornographic actor Linda Lovelace – undoubtedly believe themselves to have the best of intentions. Convincing accusations made against her abusive husband, Chuck Traynor, are presented as fact. The picture’s sympathies are always with its lead character.
Yet there is unquestionably a sense that the film-makers want to have it both ways. How astonishing it is to recall the absurd perversion of morality that led Deep Throat, Lovelace’s most famous film, to become a massive mainstream success in 1972. All that seedy, nylon anti-glamour? All that cheesy porn humour? All those charismatic Italian-American hoodlums? It seems a shame to spoil the fun by focusing on the misogynistic torture that allowed the “adult” film industry to prosper.
Writer Andy Bellin’s unconvincing solution is to impose a faintly ludicrous two-act structure on the piece. We first meet Linda (Amanda Seyfried) as a young woman living miserably with her Christian parents (Sharon Stone and Robert Patrick, both excellent) in some sweaty corner of Florida. Chuck (Peter Sarsgaard) turns up, charms her parents, woos her into marriage and eventually persuades her to participate in the now-legendary hardcore smash.
Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman, directors of the tolerable Howl, do call up some sinister hues (they could hardly avoid doing so), but the opening half still plays like a day-glo, groovy romp. We then suddenly jump to 1980 and the publication of Linda’s autobiography Ordeal. She talks us through a flashback that reveals the abuse, deceit and dehumanisation that soured her supposedly glamorous life.
Lovelace feels deeply dishonest. The fetid underbelly of the pornography industry has so often been exposed that the opening section will play successfully only to the blissfully deluded or the naively ignorant. Moreover, Seyfried’s performance is (not for the first time) so underpowered and the film so uninterested in fleshing out her character that Linda is never permitted to be anything other than a victim.
This is less a film about Linda Boreman than a film about stuff that happened to Linda Boreman. Why do we not hear more about her later life campaigning against pornography with Gloria Steinem and Andrea Dworkin? Not “funky” enough, we must assume. She deserves better.