A review by Liam Fleming
When I first saw the trailer for Lovelace in my local cinema, the formidable Phoenix in East Finchley, I was intrigued. Firstly, by the story: having to this day, never seen Deep Throat, the genre-defining “blue” film of the ‘70s, I knew very little of Linda Lovelace (or her famous throat), and secondly, because until now, I had always thought her name was Linda Love-less – a more ironic and, perhaps, sadly appropriate pseudonym – showing my lack of knowledge straight away; but also because it seemed like a fun, tongue-in-cheek view of the pornographic industry with lots of gags and a light touch. So imagine my disbelief as reviews piled in about the harrowing nature of the film.
Anyone who has as little knowledge of the pornographic industry as myself (honest, Ma!) won’t know much if anything about Lovelace – real name Linda Boreman – or the abuse and terror inflicted upon her by her husband Chuck, chronicled in the autobiographic Ordeal. Lovelace the film, however, gives you a real idea of what she went through, taking the brave and novel approach of showing you the same period of time but in two separate ways: the show being put on for the camera and the fans vs. the harsh reality of the situation.
When the film first turns back the clock to show you the events from the perspective of Linda, you automatically know what’s coming. I started thinking about moments in the film I knew were coming where I had been reassured by the friendly faces and the fact that Linda seemed “okay” with what was happening; mentally preparing myself for the unpleasant truth that lay beneath the thin veneer of sexual liberation and awkward, feel-good sex comedy. The story itself is shallow in its telling. The glitz and glamour are hollow – even more so than you would expect – which makes me think the writing could have been better, rather than that being the aim of the writers. Lovelace has the feel of a Boogie Nights but without the sharp dialogue.
The real emotion comes through the fantastic acting of Peter Sarsgaard as Chuck Traynor, who really plays the charmer, turning on a knife’s edge to show the brutal and spiteful side to his nature. Even when Chuck is trying to repent, all I can see is the manipulation behind it, a testament to Sarsgaard, taking a new angle here to his roguish charmer persona. Amanda Seyfried, in the title role, does a good job of portraying the naïve girl with a little more to her than meets the eye. Her initial transformation when she is “liberated” by Chuck is a joy to watch, but Seyfried’s accent jars and her appearance towards the end, as a woman forcibly suppressing her sexuality, seems a little bit too caricature for my liking.
The real standout performances in Lovelace, though, are from Robert Patrick and Sharon Stone as Linda’s parents. Stone has a commanding presence and morphed so effortlessly into this role that it wasn’t until the credits that I realised the dowdy presence was her! And this was after it had been mentioned to me that she was in the film! As the mother, she provides a counterpoint to Linda’s promiscuity, embodying the ethos of the time. When she tells Linda to “Obey” her husband, that really gives you a picture of the attitudes of the ‘70s; when Linda later references that conversation as to why she felt she had to do the things she did for Chuck, your heart breaks along with Stone’s character’s.
Patrick, on the other hand, starts the film as the silent, ex-military father who looks ready to shout and lash out at any moment (similar to Chris Cooper in American Beauty, for whom I initially mistook Patrick). He says little and emotes less, so when, towards the end the of the film, he speaks to Linda on the phone and breaks down, you come to see the real man behind the façade, the caring husband and loving father who just wants for his daughter to be safe and happy.
Lovelace is not for the faint-hearted and definitely not for anyone looking for a cheap thrill from a movie based around the porn industry. This film is a about a woman’s legacy, her trials and tribulations, and, even with its flaws, it is still very much worth a watch.