Lovelace begins in a manner that suggests a randy, 70’s romp, with lurid colours, credits in bubble font and saucy disco tunes. It’s not unreasonable then to assume a certain portion of the audience will be disappointed to discover how tame the film is in more ways than one.
Charting the life of Linda Lovelace (Amanda Seyfried) from a prudish 21 year old to the most famous porn star of all time and star of the notorious Deep Throat, we follow Linda as she leaves her stifling mother (a brilliantly brittle Sharon Stone) and sweet father (Robert Patrick) to move in with her alarmingly moustachioed boyfriend Chuck Traynor (Peter Sarsgaard). It doesn’t take a genius to see that Traynor is a bad ‘un. Not only does he sport that spectacularly sleazy facial furniture and coerce Linda into performing the act that is to make her famous but he repeats “you’re my girl” to his soon to be wife in an entirely sinister fashion that makes you wonder just how anyone could be taken in by his dubious ‘charms’.
Once the pair are married things soon turn sour, Linda sports a bubble perm to make 1980’s era Anita Dobson jealous and Chuck amasses huge debts to some shady types and so forces Linda into the world of porn.
Lovelace is littered with frankly pointless cameos from the likes of Chloe Sevigny, Eric Roberts and Wes Bentley while James Franco cropping up as Hugh Hefner is just a distraction. Hank Azaria (sporting an epic syrup) and Bobby Cannavale fair better in comedic, almost cuddly turns as Deep Throat director Gerard Damiano and producer Louis ‘Butchie’ Peraino and Chris Noth as the films financier Anthony Romano is portrayed as a somewhat heroic figure considering his mob connections and business practices. Adam Brody and Debi Mazar are amusingly game as Linda’s nice as pie co-stars Harry Reems and Dolly but its Patrick as her father that steals the acting honours in a tiny 30 second scene where he tells his daughter that he’s seen her film. It’s a heartbreakingly real moment and makes you wish the whole film was as real and raw as this.
Seyfried does well with an essentially underwritten role. She is required to do little other than wide-eyed innocence or cowering from her brutal husband, it’s a real pity as Seyfried is capable of much more. Similarly Sarsgaard is saddled with standard crazy-eyed movie psycho material. He’s a repugnant character and elicits zero empathy or sympathy from viewers. Stone is truly unrecognisable as Linda’s granite faced mother. A hard woman who urges her daughter to return to an abusive husband because she, “said her vows.”
Directors Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman seem unsure of what exactly they are trying to say, it’s neither an exposé of the porn industry nor a damning example of spousal abuse. Linda’s anti-pornography campaigning is skimmed over and it is this that will forever make her a fascinating subject. It is however to Epstein and Friedman’s credit that they do not resort to cheap titillation or gratuitous nudity, proceedings are chaste in comparison to some of the shows on television these days.
While Lovelace is an entertaining enough biopic – how could it not be with such a fascinating tale to tell – it ultimately falls short of being great, lacking the courage of its convictions by skirting over the truly horrifying incidents that Lovelace mentions in her two autobiographies.