Review: Lovelace (Sundance 2013)
PLOT: The true-story of Linda Lovelace (Amanda Seyfried)- the first porn megastar. Married at a young age to hustler Chuck Traynor (Peter Sarsgaard)- she's essentially forced into making the film, DEEP THROAT, that makes her a seventies icon, but under Traynor's influence, her journey is less a ride than an ordeal.
REVIEW: Anyone who's seen the relatively recent documentary INSIDE DEEP THROAT can speak to the fact that the DEEP THROAT saga is an especially interesting chapter in the long history of pornography. The film made hundreds of millions of dollars, but it caused such a stir that the makers and some of the actors almost found themselves in jail- although later,Lovelace came to be admired by the woman’s lib movement for taking control of her sexuality in an empowering way.
LOVELACE doesn't really cover any of that. Rather, it's perspective is solely focused on Lovelace's ordeal- with her spending over thirty years after DEEP THROAT (before her untimely death a few years ago) claiming she was forced into performing.
The LOVELACE story has almost been turned into a film numerous times, with Lindsay Lohan once being heavily favored to take the role. Now, thanks to Ron Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman- the directors of THE TIMES OF HARVEY MILK and HOWL, LOVELACE finally makes the jump to the big-screen, with “it girl” Amanda Seyfried in the title role.
This is a pretty bold part for Seyfried- who spends quite a bit of time naked, as befits the subject matter. It's a seamy story, but a thoroughly interesting one- and Linda Lovelace certainly allows Seyfried to do some of her best acting to date. As depicted here, Lovelace was essentially the girl next door (the very thing that made her popular), who escapes her repressive mom (a nearly unrecognizable Sharon Stone) and takes up with the initially charming and fun Traynor.
Seyfried is certainly good, with her wounded, doe-like eyes certainly making her a character easy to sympathize with- even if she's a bit too conventionally pretty to play the average Lovelace. But- LOVELACE is without a doubt Peter Sarsgaard's film. He's always been an interesting actor, and LOVELACE plays perfectly to his strengths, with Traynor getting to be more and more of a sleaze as the film goes on. He coerces his wife into the film, and then bristles when she becomes an icon. He simultaneously exploits her image, and punishes for it- and Sarsgaard plays a real bastard through-and-through. He's excellent as the sweaty, desperate Traynor- in a performance that reminded me a lot of Eric Roberts in the similar STAR 80 (Roberts also has a cameo). Sarsgaard's usually a really likable guy, but he totally disappears into the part- and it's a nice comeback from the way he was wasted in GREEN LANTERN.
Given the strength of Seyfried and Sarsgaard's performances, LOVELACE probably should have been an excellent film, but in a bit of a disappointing outcome, it's merely a pretty good one. Anyone who's seen HOWL can attest to the fact that Epstein and Friedman are pretty radical filmmakers when they want to be, and some of that edge would have really gone a long way towards making LOVELACE more than it is. As it stands, the film comes off like an R-rated Lifetime movie- running a scant ninety minutes.
The two have managed to assemble a pretty huge cast, with Stone, Robert Patrick, Chris Noth, Hank Azaria, Adam Brody (funny as Lovelace's co-star Harry Reems) and even James Franco turning up as a kinda cartoonish Hugh Hefner. Sarah Jessica Parker's name is all over the poster- but she seems to have gotten cut out.
The big cast is impressive, but it's also distracting, with some of the parts amounting to little more than walk-ons- and seem to have only been included to put another name on the poster. Lovelace's story is interesting enough it didn't really need any of them- and by making this such a short film, Lovelace's latter days, where she emerged as a truly empowering figure through her battle against her infamy, is glossed over. This is a shame.
As it is, LOVELACE is fine as far as biopics go, but it's nowhere near as impressive as other films about the era or the industry, and even kinda pales next to the other Sundance tale of sex and drugs- THE LOOK OF LOVE. LOVELACE is good enough, and contains excellent work from Seyfried and Sarsgaard, but the DEEP THROAT saga should have made for a more interesting film.