Alright! This is Lovelace!
Amanda Seyfried stars in this biopic about Linda Boreman, better known as the infamous American porn star Linda Lovelace. Linda was known for her starring role in the 1972 smash hit Deep Throat, a porn film which led her to becoming the first American porn star ever. We follow the events of her life where she meets her abusive husband Chuck Traynor (played by Peter Saarsgard), her being influenced/forced by her husband to star in porn, her rise to stardom, and ending at the point in her life in 1980 where she writes a memoir titled Ordeal about her life in an attempt to prevent other women from following the same fate as her.
One reason I became interested in watching Lovelace was because in August I went to see Amanda Seyfried being interviewed at the Apple Store in Regent Street and talking about this film and her starring role. I was somewhere in the back, but I could see her just fine… it’s so weird seeing a celebrity from afar, because you’re so used to seeing them on the screen, but I digress. Not much else to say. She was pretty awesome and I liked her interview. So I was like “Hey, this movie might be worth checking out!”
So what are my thoughts?
Eh, Lovelace is ok. Not fantastic. Not good. Just ok. I think I liked it more the first time I saw it, but that doesn’t mean I dislike it now. If anything, it was a very humble film, which is exactly what I expected: it’s just something trying to tell the story of Linda Lovelace, which for the most part does fine.
I’ll start with the positives:
Something Seyfried brought up a lot in the interview was how she’s usually given the more innocent roles instead of a more serious and mature role (and it’s funny when she mentioned that she was filming Les Miz at the time, and she went from a porn star to playing a freaking virgin the following week). Well, I think this was a good casting choice, as this film shows how a young and innocent girl is transformed into a sex symbol, and eventually seen as a more experienced and less vulnerable woman years later. It made sense. And the process of Linda’s transformation is very believable: it all starts with a young girl living an unhappy and boring lifestyle, and her trying to find some excitement until she meets up with Chuck. Seyfried delivers a great performance, and I liked her a lot in the film.
Other stand-outs were Peter Saarsgard playing the abusive and manipulative husband Chuck. On the surface he looks like someone you could probably trust, but at the same time the kind of person you feel uncomfortable being around. And when he does horrible things to his own wife, it’s scary and uncomfortable. Kinda similar to his character in Boy’s Don’t Cry (come to think of it, these two films are kinda similar in a lot of aspects). The film does the effort to establish this character enough instead of making him a “generic abusive husband”, and Saarsgard’s performance makes this character real and believable.
Two other major characters are Robert Patrick , playing Linda’s father, who is mostly glued to the TV, and Sharon Stone, almost unrecognisable in the role, is a stand-out playing Linda’s domineering mother who has a very harsh relationship with Linda. The mother does nothing to help her daughter with her marriage situation, in fact, making it worse by encouraging her to stay with Chuck and telling her daughter to “be a good wife and obey him”. She becomes even more distant from her daughter, with a mix of negative feelings towards her daughter and of herself.
Overall, the casting is the film’s strongest factor: they all looked like they belonged in that time period, and they gave a lot of humanity to their respective roles. All well done, maybe except for James Franco. Although I like this actor, I just didn’t buy him as Hugh Hefner. He didn’t do horribly, and it wasn’t his acting. It’s just that the casting felt distracting: I expected someone a little bit manlier and more “playboy-ish” (is that even a word?). I just saw Franco pretending to be a playboy as opposed to being one. Well, he’s only in a film for a while, so it’s just a nitpick. It’d be a problem if a major character like Linda or Chuck were miscast, but thankfully they’re not.
This biopic does its best to make these characters and their situation seem as real as possible. In fact, I won’t tell who this character is, but one character acts almost looks like a mob boss, so naturally you’d assume him to be a greedy and sexist guy. However, he goes against that expectation when he finds out about Linda’s abuse, shows real concern and helps her out near the end of the film. I don’t know how much of this biopic is true or not, and I don’t know if this really happened or not, but I’m VERY glad I saw this. It goes against that usual stereotype, and it gives that character a new layer to explore.
Now let’s get into the flaws of the film. There are just three problems with the film, but these are big problems:
The film explained very well who Linda was, the people around her who influenced her, and what she represented to everyone else, as well as giving us an understanding of her internal struggle. But I think some of the facts of her career were a bit vague. It tells us that she became famous for doing Deep Throat, and it specifically shows how the process of the film was made, but they never mention any of the other porn films she starred in, and that made me wonder whether this woman only became famous for one film. Apparently she starred in more porn films after Deep Throat, but they never mention any of that. That might confuse a bunch of audiences who had never heard of her. It definitely confused me. They also show Linda talking about her book Ordeal, yet they don’t mention anything else about her role in the anti-pronography movement. I heard there were deleted scenes with Sarah Jessica Parker in them, which had her in events that took place in 1984, but the theatrical version stopped the time setting at 1980. So maybe they wanted to add something else, perhaps show Linda as a spokeswoman in the anti-pornography movement. I know the film is more focused on showing her life as Linda Lovelace, but I wanted to see more of her moving away from that name. Even after the notes before the end credits, I felt they were kind of vague, and that the film felt kind of short because of it. Maybe they could have given us a bit more information, as well as made a few facts clearer. Perhaps it was more concerned with showing Linda becoming Lovelace and her abusive relationship with her husband, instead of overwhelming the audiences with so much information about her life. Maybe I’m asking for too much, but I felt that maybe the film could have shown much more about Linda’s life AFTER her porn star career.
Here’s the other problem with the film: its composition.
This film follows a non-linear narrative. After establishing how Linda came to meet Chuck, we’re given two sides of the same story. The first part of the story is meant to show how Linda took on the role of a porn star as a means to help her husband out for financial difficulties, and in result being offered the exciting life she always wanted. The second part reveals that this life wasn’t as great as it sounded: she was actually forced to become a porn star, Chuck abused her and also forced her to do something horrible (which was very hard to watch, to the film’s credit). Although the first part intends to hint at the abusive relationship behind all the glamorous lifestyle, the problem is that maybe it’s hinted at a bit TOO much. It doesn’t do a good job in concealing the abusive relationship until the second-half, which pretty much everybody figured out already. There’s even a point where the film actually shows us the bruises on her legs to imply the abuse. Some of the scenes do a better job at it than others, but maybe it could have been downplayed a bit more in the first half so that there’s a better contrast.
The idea of showing the same story twice was probably what took over most of the time-span of the film. I understand what the filmmakers were intending to do, but I think this could have worked better if the story had been told through a series of flashbacks, while focusing on Linda’s involvement on the anti-pornography movement. Although, again, I’m probably asking for too much: if the film wanted to focus on that specific period in her life, fine. But then it should have been clearer in some of the facts in her life, because I think some facts were a bit too vague.
Lastly, it doesn’t explore the subject of pornography enough. I knew next to nothing about porn films or porn stars (I had never even heard of Linda Lovelace or Deep Throat until around last month), and even if it does show how pornography affected Linda’s life, why she went into it, and why people sort of need pornography, I wish it would have delved into the dark side of pornography and its morality a bit more. This is more glanced over than explored, which is a shame. After all, this IS a film about the life of a porn star! It’s like if the film Frida delved into the life of Frida Kahlo and who she was, but glancing over the importance or influence of art (this is a great film, by the way).
Overall, Lovelace is good, but it’s not as great as it could have been. It had some really good things in it, like the casting and its emotional factor, but at the same time I wish the film as a whole could have surprised me. I think it’s worth a watch if you don’t know who Linda Lovelace is, and you want to know more about her. But for now, it’s just ok.