Linda Boreman lived a life salted with unhappiness and peppered with victimisation, and she died tragically in a car accident at the age of 53. She will be forever known to the world as “Linda Lovelace”, arguably the most famous of the porn stars from its heyday, during the golden age of porn. More famous than her, is the title of the only hardcore feature she ever made, Deep Throat (1972). The biopic, Lovelace (2013), tells her story, from when she was around the age of twenty, and met Chuck Traynor, who would become her husband, manager, and pimp, to her unlikely reunion with her estranged parents soon after the publication of her autobiographical damnation of the porn industry, Ordeal.
Directors Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman, both of whom have collaborated on numerous documentaries, tackle their first narrative feature, and it’s a half-decent attempt at bringing to a wide audience the difficult life and career of Linda Lovelace. It’s fascinating subject matter, filled with drama, intrigue, titillation, bemusement, corruption, and, ultimately, shock and tragedy. It’s a shame then, that Lovelace remains a lurid skim across the surface, a shiny veneer across a dark abyss.
Amanda Seyfried, one of the better actresses of her generation, does a sterling job, capturing the naïveté and deer-in-the-headlights behaviour of someone who was truly damaged goods. A childhood filled with misery, unloved and belittled by her mother, and ignored by her father, she turned to Traynor, who appeared to be her knight in shining armour, but quickly turned into a sleazy opportunistic beast from hell. If there is one cold, hard truth Lovelace paints, it is that of domestic violence, and the women who are trapped, through abject terror.
The cast of Lovelace is littered with A-listers, a most curious affair, considering how thankless most of the roles are. Peter Sarsgaard plays Traynor, and it’s perfect casting, as he captures the inherent insidiousness with aplomb. Robert Patrick and Sharon Stone (unrecognizable!) play Linda’s folks, Juno Temple is Linda’s wary friend Patsy, Chris Noth and Bobby Carnovale play the organized crime who funded Deep Throat (and made a very, very tidy sum from it), Hank Azaria plays the film’s director Gerry Damiano (who would go on to enjoy a solid career in the industry), Chloe Sevigny plays a journalist in a blink-and-you-miss-it scene, James Franco attempts Hugh Hefner, Debi Mazar is Dolly, Linda’s experienced co-star in Deep Throat, , Wes Bentley plays a still photographer who makes Linda look pretty, and Eric Roberts shows up as a corporate sleaze. There’s also some clever editing in the last half of the movie when Linda Lovelace appears on the Donahue show, which intercuts the real footage with a recreation.
Lovelace plays a safe hand. For starters it avoids getting its hands dirty with little nudity, and mostly off-screen violence. It’s essentially a warning about the dark side of the industry, yet it doesn’t delve into the notorious 8mm loops Linda made before Deep Throat, one of which involved bestiality with a dog, and it makes no mention of the two pro-porn books Linda made in 1974 (Inside Linda Lovelace and The Intimate Diary of Linda Lovelace). In the decade since her death many accusations – including one that she was a pathological liar – have emerged from those that worked with her, which discredit her and her claims, but it’s obvious her relationship with Chuck Traynor was not a healthy one by any stretch.
Lovelace paints a stark portrait of dreams and desires ruined by manipulation and corruption. It’s worth watching for Amanda Seyfried’s, Peter Sarsgaard’s, and Sharon Stone’s performances, and as a sub-culture period curio piece, but as an indictment it’s pretty wishy-washy.
— Lovelace film review written by Bryn Tilly of cultprojections.com