A film review by Craig J. Koban August 27, 2013
2013, R, 92 mins.
2013, R, 92 mins.
Amanda Seyfried as Linda Lovelace / Wes Bentley as Larry Marchiano / James Franco as Hugh Hefner / Hank Azaria as Jerry Damiano / Juno Temple as Patsy / Sharon Stone as Dorothy Boreman / Peter Sarsgaard as Chuck Traynor / Eric Roberts as Nat Laurendi / Adam Brody as Harry Reems / Bobby Cannavale as Butchie Peraino / Robert Patrick as John J. Boreman
Directed by Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman / Written by Andy Bellin
tells the tumultuous story of Bronx native Linda Susan Boreman, who went on to
become, of course, Linda Lovelace, one of the most famous porn actresses
of the 1970’s that appeared in one of the most popular and widely seen
adult films of all-time in DEEP THROAT.
The film was just 62 minutes long, shot in less than a week, and
was made for peanuts with amateurish production values, but DEEP THROAT was
the first porn film of its era that sought to legitimize the genre for the
mainstream masses. It went on
to become a box office sensation, grossing millions of dollars and was seen
by a large movie going public. It
also made Lovelace a household name.
LOVELACE is not
so much concerned with the making of DEEP THROAT as it is in dealing with the
before and after tale of Lovelace’s porn life, which the film relays via
thanklessly decent performance and some flawless recreations of its era.
The model turned porn actress achieved such lightning quick success
and popularity that it would only seem inevitable that she would come
crashing down hard. In a bit
of irony, Lovelace became a staunch anti-porn advocate after DEEP
THROAT’s release. In the 1980’s she testified before Congress that every time
she was having sex in DEEP THROAT that viewers were (in her words) “watching me getting
raped.” She commented in
more detail about what she felt were hellish working conditions in her
tell-all 1980 autobiography ORDEAL. She
died at the relatively young age of 52 in 2002.
The inherent sadness of her story is that DEEP THROAT - a film
that Lovelace was only paid $1250 to appear in - grossed a fortune and
made everyone else in the production rich, leaving Lovelace an
exploited martyr of sorts.
compellingly, screenwriter Andy Bellin opts to go for a RASHOMON effect of
chronicling Lovelace’s rise and fall, showing how she came to be
in DEEP THROAT and the film’s aftermath from one viewpoint and then
later flashes back to showcase Lovelace’s own perspective of the events.
The idea here, I think, is to give the film a layered sense of
depth to the narrative, which is inherently true, but it does provide for
some jarring and odd juxtapositions of scenes.
The main events of the film occur between 1970 and 1974, during
which we see Linda Boreman (Amanda Seyfried) as she meets a man that would
shape her destiny, for better and ultimately for worse, Chuck Traynor
(played with reptilian scuzziness by Peter Sarsgaard), who initially
became her manager and then, for lack of a better description, her abusive
scenes of the film have the most hypnotic allure, as we see Boreman as a
Florida-residing teen that’s essentially dominated by her
ultra-strict mother (a gritty and never-been-better Sharon Stone) and her
retired-cop father (an equally solid Robert Patrick).
The fascination of these introductory moments is in seeing Traynor
go in for the seductive kill and lure the relatively bright-eyed, naïve,
and plucky Boreman into his fold. He
does manage to steal her away from her domineering – but well-meaning
– parents, marries her, and then has aspirations of turning her into a
mega-star. Some of
Traynor’s early efforts of putting his wife on film gets the attention
of a group of porn makers, Anthony Romano (Chris Noth), Butchie Peraino
(Bobby Cannavale) and Gerry Damiano (Hank Azaria), which ultimately leads
to the production of DEEP THROAT, mostly because of Boreman’s previous
on-screen talents for performing felatio.
The rest, as they say, is history, and their small little porn film
unintentionally becomes an overnight sensation.
aforementioned scenes all seem to frame Lovelace’s achieving of stardom
with a relatively rosy and idealistic glow, but then the film doubles back
and gives us the truly darker underbelly of what transpired.
We then witness not only the animalistic hostility of Traynor as he
chronically abused his wife, but also how DEEP THROAT affected both
Lovelace’s life, her relationship with her parents, her sense of
self-worth, and the larger movie-going culture as a whole (her infamous performance in
DEEP THROAT soon became a punch line on late night talk show circuits).
When both Traynor and Lovelace begin to realize that they will not
be sharing in the huge financial success of DEEP THROAT, the already cruel
husband turns to more vile methods to financially get what he wants out of his wife.
directed by Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman and, as stated, the pair
lovingly bathes the screen in the colorfully grim tones of the 70’s
porn industry, an ethos that both easily ensnared Lovelace and then
callously spit her out. The
performances by the cast are all resoundingly solid as well; Seyfried, a
natural girl-next-door beauty, is well cast as Lovelace,
evoking a young girl of limitless ambition who then has to relay an older woman
utterly broken down by her husband, the industry, and life in general.
Sarsgaard can play predatory creeps with the best of them, and he
seems to relish making Traynor a wholeheartedly loathsome creature.
Oddly enough, I found
myself gravitating to the performances by Sharon Stone and Robert Patrick, who make the most of their limited screen time in their
portrayal of Lovelace’s parents; they both despise her participation in the
porn industry while still loving her all the same.
Patrick has a moment on the phone with his daughter where he
reveals that he has seen DEEP THROAT that’s as heartbreaking as any
scene I’ve seen.
Yet, for as
intrinsically well acted and good looking as LOVELACE is, the film
nonetheless feels a bit rushed (it tries to cram in far too much history in it’s
grossly limiting 90-plus minutes) and other times just feels half-baked and
undernourished from a narrative perspective.
There’s ample details regarding Lovelace’s life that seems to
have been conveniently left out, like how her post-Traynor marriage with
children – shown as rather content and stress-free – was, by her own
admission, nothing actually of the sort.
Then there are some of the more nagging conundrums about
Lovelace’s post-porn/anti-porn advocacy, like the fact that she posed as
her Lovelace persona in the magazine 'The Leg Show' in 1994, which somewhat
contradicts her firm stance against women being sexually exploited. LOVELACE presents its title character in perhaps too many broad
strokes for its own good at times, and without much in the way of digging
deeper into the peculiar incongruities of her life.
There are also times when LOVELACE just regrettably feels like BOOGIE NIGHTS-lite; that film – even though fictional – is an infinitely better and more well rounded portal into the lurid world of late 70’s/early 80’s pornography and excess. LOVELACE, to be fair, has very noble intentions for being an advocacy piece for women in general that have been victimized not only by their poor occupational choices, but also by their monstrous husbands. The sympathy levied for Linda Boreman in the film certainly has a place and is fitting. Alas, LOVELACE has the façade of a compelling biopic, but it’s simultaneously lacking complexity underneath as a thorough exploration of the multifaceted journey of Linda Boreman from porn star to victim and ultimately to feminist spokesperson.