LOVELACE (2013), starring Amanda Seyfried as porn star Linda Lovelace, received a limited theatrical release when it opened earlier this year, and word of mouth wasn’t all that enthusiastic. Some cited faults with the script claiming it danced around the sordid details of Lovelace’s rough life.
Still, I was eager to see this one, mostly because I enjoy the work of Amanda Seyfried, having been impressed with her performances in such movies as CHLOE (2009), RED RIDING HOOD (2011), and GONE (2012) to name a few. And so I sat down to watch LOVELACE the other night on streaming video, and I’m happy to say I didn’t find it disappointing at all. In fact, it’s a pretty darn good movie.
It’s 1970 when LOVELACE opens, and twenty one year-old Linda Boreman (Amanda Seyfried) is still living with her parents, Dorothy (an unrecognizable Sharon Stone) and John (Robert Patrick). When Linda and her best friend Patsy (Juno Temple) decide to go-go dance at a club for fun, they are spotted by a young man named Chuck (Peter Sarsgaard) who encourages them to dance professionally. They decline, but Linda and Chuck become involved in a relationship, one that will ultimately change Linda’s life forever.
Linda and Chuck get married, and soon afterwards, with his night club shut down due to prostitution charges, Chuck finds himself desperate for money. He has ties to the porn industry, and so he attempts to get Linda hired to star in a porn movie, but the producers of the film aren’t interested, claiming she looks too much like the “girl next door,” and that she doesn’t fit the porn prototype, but when Chuck shows them a home movie he shot, which shows off Linda’s “talent,” the producers are impressed and change their minds about hiring her for their next film.
Their next film is DEEP THROAT, and it becomes a national phenomenon, propelling Linda to stardom. Now going by the name of Linda Lovelace, a name given to her by the film’s producers, she amazingly becomes a household name across America, as she’s mentioned on the news by Walter Cronkite and by Johnny Carson on THE TONIGHT SHOW, much to the chagrin of her parents. She even becomes the guest of Hugh Hefner (James Franco) who arranges a private screening of DEEP THROAT at his Playboy mansion.
But stardom comes at a price. Chuck becomes more and more abusive towards Linda, as he continually tries to exploit her in an ongoing effort to make as much money as possible. At one point he even collects money so she can be gang-raped. He’s not a pleasant fellow.
In one of the movie’s more powerful scenes, Linda tries to return home to her parents, but her mother Dorothy won’t allow it. She tells Linda that she must honor her wedding vow to obey her husband. When Linda tells her that Chuck beats her, Dorothy asks her daughter what she has done to make her husband beat her. She sends Linda back home. Gee, thanks mom!
Eventually, Linda breaks away from Chuck and the porn industry. She remarries and starts a family, and she spends the rest of her life speaking out against pornography and violence against women.
I had heard that LOVELACE suffered from a weak script, but I thought Andy Bellin’s screenplay worked just fine. Two thirds into the film it does jump back in time and uses flashbacks to fill in some of the blanks from earlier in the story, most of these showing Chuck’s dark side and the cruel ways he treated Linda. I didn’t have a problem with this, as the bulk of today’s television shows use the same style, so it’s nothing I wasn’t used to.
And there are those who felt the film wasn’t dark enough, that it didn’t show us the real horrors of what Linda Lovelace went through, and that the film was somehow “soft” by going with an “R” rating as opposed to an NC-17 rating, but I didn’t feel this way at all. To me, the film made its point: Linda Lovelace was abused by her husband and most likely manipulated into the porn industry. It’s not a pretty story. I got this without being shown every sordid little detail.
The biggest strength of LOVELACE however is its very strong cast. I’ve been a fan of Amanda Seyfried for quite a while now, and I really enjoyed her performance here as Linda. It was a bit of a change of pace for Seyfried and it really showed her range as an actor.
But the strongest performance in LOVELACE belongs to Peter Sarsgaard as Chuck. Sarsgaard really nailed the role and showed considerable range here as Linda’s sneaky cruel husband. I’ve seen Sarsgaard in a lot of movies, and his performance as Chuck just might be my favorite.
Sharon Stone is just as good as Linda’s mother Dorothy, and with her 1970s hairstyle and clothes she’s barely recognizable.
The fine supporting cast includes Robert Patrick as Linda’s father John, and Chris Noth as Anthony Romano, the man supplying the big bucks to finance DEEP THROAT. Bobby Cannavale is memorable as Butchie Peraino, the producer of DEEP THROAT, as is Hank Azaria as Gerry Damiano, the guy who wrote the movie.
Even James Franco shows up in a throwaway role as Hugh Hefner.
Directors Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman have made a film that does a nice job capturing the look and feel of 1970s culture, and it also has something to say about the dark side of pornography and its treatment of women.
It’s interesting to compare LOVELACE with Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s DON JON (2013) which also came out earlier this year and also featured a plot about porn. DON JON took place in 2013, and its view of porn reflects the present day view which, right or wrong, is more accepting of the industry. There’s much less of a stigma attached to the industry today than there was in the 1970s. In Gordon-Levitt’s film, porn is portrayed as a near perfect vehicle for sexual gratification. There’s no mention of behind-the-scenes lowlifes like Chuck who abuse women.
LOVELACE is a blunt reminder that underneath the glamour and glitz of the sex film industry, all is not as it seems, and there are dark forces at work that are not at all like the images so boldly displayed on the screen.
While not for everyone, LOVELACE is a relevant film that effectively takes us back to a rather ugly time in our history- Vietnam, Nixon, and Watergate- and paints a sympathetic portrait of a woman who incredibly became a household name for her appearance in the most successful porn film of all time.