Lovelace Directed by: Rob Epstein & Jeffrey Friedman Cast: Amanda Seyfried, Peter Sarsgaard, Juno Temple, Chris Noth, Hank Azaria, James Franco Running Time: 1 hr 32 mins Rating: R Release Date: August 9, 2013
PLOT: The story of Deep Throat porn star Linda Lovelace (Seyfried) and her relationship with abusive manager Chuck Traynor (Sarsgaard).
WHO'S IT FOR? Not really sure. Those who like to be bummed out about the control of the porn industry? At the very least, fans of Seyfried who will follow her to even the messiest of projects.
Amanda Seyfried is fitfully, but unfortunately servant in Lovelace, a movie that confirms Boogie Nights might have a monopoly on widespread films about the porn industry. While it does take a commendable amount of lady cojones for an actress to attempt to represent such a complicated figure, one wouldn't recognize such an attitude, as the former Mean Girls star is constantly used for her dopy innocence that she can bring to any movie. Even when she gets a moment of dark maturity by the end of the film, standing up for herself behind a monologue, old age make-up, and Teri Garr glasses, Lovelace plays her simple, further nudging at this movie's dramatic agenda.
She shares a fair amount of screen-time with Peter Sarsgaard, who is extra skeezy and by no coincidence has a big mustache. Together, they bloat this biopic by hammering in Lovelace's driving force, the awful relationship between the two. There are a couple of interesting ideas at play here amongst the awfulness, sure, like the connection of a conservative woman's housewife-esque obedience to that of Linda's position in the porn industry, and how the two intertwine. But Lovelace is not interested in pursuing these ideas, despite strongly mentioning them.
Hurtful to this movie's goal of providing a stronger picture for a wider audience, Lovelace doesn't get into the phenomenon that is inspired by this narrative's largest event. It is established that Deep Throat became successful, even a part of popular culture so much that Johnny Carson kept making jokes about it, but Lovelace disregards the more important question as to why. Why is it this porn film that was able to transcend general movie consciousness, and why was such acceptance okay or fair game? Perhaps this is another bid from the filmmakers to provide the story for those who already know about Lovelace's story — those who already come into the film asking its opening line of "Who is the real Linda Lovelace?"
In a confrontational move of story rearrangement that backfires, Lovelace splits its narrative into two levels: the story of Linda's life that we probably imagine it to be, and then the darker reality of those moments. It's a bold choice, especially as it originally makes for consistent viewer frustration when watching Linda's life events be presented with barely an idea of her own perspective. But then with some hokey flashback magic, we get her side of the story, or basically the uglier truth behind events that we already thought were terrible. Frustratingly, these events don't so much provide a more fleshed out character for Linda, but instead barely sophisticate our impression of this cultural icon from that of dopey suburban girl to a naive martyr of dopey suburban girl innocence.
This tactic of secondarily providing the "real story" is an act of manipulation with the events of Linda, and consequently with the impressions her presentation gives to her audience. At best one could say that this is an intentional reference to how Linda was treated by everyone else, controlled to be the person that they wanted her to be, and she was happy to serve them. But the filmmakers don't earn that meta kudos, especially when the rest of this movie seems to be so shallow. It's more like directors Epstein & Friedman were enabled by the broody potential of this movie, especially when Linda's tale already welcomes the dynamic of servitude.
With that being said, after watching Lovelace and recognizing its selective taste for nudity and how it presented sex, I began to further miss the stark ugliness of director Lizzie Borden's (incredible and uncomfortable) Working Girls. That film presented the world's oldest profession like a modern small business, with the act of sex not presented pornographically but with all of the truly naked images that come with intimacy, for human beings of all appearances.
Especially with the close release of another comparatively porn-ish movie, The Canyons, Lovelace is a strangely clean film about a seedy industry. Aside from the discomfort it provides viewers with awful, awful, awful scenes of abuse all across the board, it remains a detached experience (at least from my perspective as a male). We pity Seyfried's Lovelace from a distance, as we are kept safe by this movie's aesthetics and constant eye for showing what looks pretty. Meanwhile, we respect that she has a life story, but we only see her for what she is providing. As pointed out by someone else after a screening of Lovelace, only Seyfried is presented as thoroughly naked in the movie. And it's true, as we feel bad for Linda, but we see that Seyfried is naked, and that's it. In this regard, Epstein & Friedman have shaped Lovelace's complicated story into their own type of skin flick, a misery porn about the misery of doing porn.
FINAL SCORE: 3/10