The weird thing about LOVELACE is that it isn't a film about the porn industry. It isn't BOOGIE NIGHTS. It's a film about domestic abuse. It's WHAT'S LOVE GOT TO DO WITH IT. And like that Tina Turner biopic, this Linda Lovelace biopic is rather melodramatic and grim and over-wrought - it moves you, and features a very good leading performance, but it it often feels like a TV afternoon movie.
So for anyone under a proverbial rock, Linda Lovelace was the 1970s porn star of DEEP THROAT, the commercial success that popularised a certain type of fellatio and made it chic to take a date to a porno. She achieved a cross-over fame, but not success, and for a brief moment was a pop-culture icon. However, she later wrote a book claiming that her abusive husband had long since been pimping her out, even forcing her to star in animal porn, and that she made DEEP THROAT under duress. She never saw a dime, eventually found the courage to leave him, and tried to make some kind of normal life as a wife, mother and anti-porn campaigner. This story has been told before, in Linda's own best-selling book, Ordeal, as well as in the documentary INSIDE DEEP THROAT.
In this movie, writer Andy Bellin sticks closely to Ordeal but definitely leaves out a lot of the harsher material concerning the early years of hooking, the bestiality - which apparently, shockingly, involved Hugh Heffner - and the weird affair with Sammy Davis Junior. Bellin focuses on the story of domestic abuse and uses a clever conceit to contrast this with the public image of Linda as a smiling, willing porn star. So the first half of the film shows us the headlines - innocent naive loved-up Linda trips and falls into porn, has a blast, becomes famous! We then revisit those same events and see her husband Chuck Traynor's manipulation, abuse and coercion. In this view, Linda did porn under the threat of a gun, with bruises on her legs, and the crew knew about it.
The resulting movie plays as a deeply affecting melodrama. Amanda Seyfriend is utterly convincing and utterly desperate as Linda. Peter Sarsgaard seems typecast but efficient in his portrayal as Traynor, effectively amping up his performance from AN EDUCATION. The real scene stealer is Sharon Stone as Linda's mother - almost unrecognisable in her ageing domineering prude role. She has very little screen time and has to do some horrible things but we always understand her complicated motivations. The rest of the cast just feels like a parade of famous faces in over-the-top 70s costumes - and this becomes, at times, distracting. Did we really need James Franco as the Hef, or Chloe Sevigny? As for the direction, other than the conceit of the folded back narrative, it's pretty pedestrian, but I did like DP than choosing to use a kind of sun-bleached 16mm look to give the movie some nostalgia contrasted with the higher-def look of the later "real" scenes.
LOVELACE has a running time of 93 minutes and has been rated R in the USA and 18 in the UK for strong sex and sex references and domestic abuse.
LOVELACE played Sundance and Berlin 2013 and is currently on release in the USA, Canada, Croatia, the UK and Ireland. It opens in Brazil and Taiwan on August 30th, in Estonia on September 6th, in the Netherlands on September 19th, in Denmark on November 21st and in Sweden on November 29th.