LOVELACE Review

There is a certain disconnect between myself and the time period in which Lovelace takes place. The early-70's are a time I've completely come to know through there representation in films and the popular music of that time. Watching a film set around that period and concerning the star of one of the most popular adult movies in history is like coming to fully realize the underbelly of the time period while at the same time getting to know a character who might have just as easily been the subject of a Lifetime movie. Essentially this is what Lovelace becomes as the real story of Linda Susan Boreman is one of an abusive marriage as well as a testament to the type of control people can subject others to. While this is certainly nothing to be made light of and it becomes clear just how tragic Linda's story really is, this standard bio pic account does nothing to make us feel much for Linda other than the inherent sympathy anyone would feel for a woman who has been part of an abusive relationship. The only thing that differentiates Lovelace from being featured on the television for women station is the caliber of talent involved and the vulgarity that comes along with Linda's profession. The only other film I've seen in which directors Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman were at the helm is the similarly low key biopic of poet Allen Ginsberg, Howl. While I wasn't particularly attracted to that film either it at least conveyed the story in a way that would have likely made the subject proud. It had an element of originality to it and intertwined real interviews, animation, and heavily documented re-enactments that at least flowed together to create an interesting piece of work. When compared to that inventive approach Lovelace is completely straightforward with only a structural shift in the middle of the movie that is more jarring than effective. I didn't mind the film, but I didn't necessarily enjoy it. Linda is an interesting person and has a story worth telling and there is enough talent invested in her portrayal and the people around her that make this movie worth seeing if not just to see how a soul can become so easily lost, but for how success can look different to the people on the outside and the person at the heart of it all.

Chuck Traynor (Peter Sarsgaard) and his wife Linda (Amanda Seyfried) in the honeymoon phase of their marriage.
Beginning in 1970 we see the innocence of Linda as she sun bathes in her parents backyard and is offended even at the thought of taking her top off to avoid tan lines on her back. It is here, in these stages that we see a fear instilled in her by her mother (an unrecognizable Sharon Stone) and a kind of passing love not often exuded by her father (Robert Patrick). She hangs out with her friend Patsy (Juno Temple) who seems more trouble than she's worth, but Linda never comes off as someone looking to get anything more than the basics out of life and this innocence, this timid subjectivity she has acquired from how she was raised is what ultimately leads to her being coerced into the adult film industry. It is when she and Patsy come across bar and restaurant owner (which is a nice way of saying a low key strip-club) Chuck Traynor (Peter Sarsgaard) that Linda falls prey to his charm and rushes into marriage with him to both escape her parents, her boredom and because he is more adventurous than she could ever imagine being. It is clear from the first time we meet Chuck that he is, for lack of a better word, a scumbag. He is the sleazy businessman always looking for the easiest way to make a quick buck and when he realizes how lucky he is to have roped in an innocent, girl-next-door type like Linda he can't help but see her as a way to advance his own place in the world. Not far into their marriage Chuck digs himself into debt and manages to score Linda a starring role in a small porn film that would go on to become the enormously successful Deep Throat. Hank Azaria, Chris Noth and Bobby Cannavale show up as the team of filmmakers and producers who see the potential in the way to market Linda, but even they recognize the bad seed that is Chuck and how he could easily derail her career. As Linda's star begins to rise Chuck indeed becomes jealous seeing her receive what he's always wanted. While Linda is busy associating with the likes of Hugh Hefner (James Franco) and Sammy Davis Jr. (Ron Pritchard) Chuck is still trying to turn a dime by not only physically abusing his wife, but dealing her out for his own profit.

Their relationship becomes the core of the film rather than the success Linda encounters at the expense of her name and her reputation. This isn't a fault of the film as Chuck is clearly one of the most engaging people on the screen and as played by a gifted actor like Sarsgaard we get more than just the simple characterization of an oily guy. Sarsgaard makes no excuses for how Chuck acts and who he truly is and he never asks the audience to feel sorry for him, but what he does do is give the guy layers that make us come to understand why he acts the way he does; why he needs to have that feeling of power and notoriety to feel like a competent human being. This only helps to paint a clearer picture of the circumstances that surround Linda's choices and why she did what she was forced to do, but when the film reaches the mark of Linda at the peak of her success it decides to revert and go back to the beginning, giving us the other side to the story that we'd already picked up on due to the subtle hints in the first fifty or so minutes. We see all the events we've already been through once again, but this time through flashback as Linda is being given a lie detector test as requested by the publisher of her tell-all book, Ordeal, in 1980. The trouble with this storytelling device is that it's ultimately unnecessary and feels forced more than anything else. When it first jumped ahead six years and then back to the beginning it is slightly confusing as to what was happening or where the film might go from there and though it does work in some instances in delivering the more current state of Linda's life via 1980 it also re-treads a lot of material giving us her perspective of the events leading up to and during her fame due to Deep Throat. That the film has already hinted at everything that is now being "revealed" as Linda has her chance to tell the story doesn't help either, but instead comes off as if the filmmakers take their audience for idiots. While I found the diversion in storytelling slightly off-putting it did come to offer slightly more insight into what drove Linda to transition from human being to play toy.

Linda comes to be comfortable with more than she might have ever imagined, including the paparazzi.
The most noted example of this is a scene between she and her mother. It is a short scene and one that takes place early on in Chuck and Linda's marriage where Linda is recounting when she went back to her parents to ask them if she could move back in because Chuck has been hitting her. In hindsight we come to realize she is trying to escape her husband before he ever has the chance to mark her legacy with what it now is, but it is her mothers response that is the most heartbreaking. She immediately blames it on her daughter, saying that she must have given him a reason to hit her and that she made a vow, a very serious vow that can't be so easily broken. She says to go back to her husband, be a good wife and to obey him. These words clearly inflict a large amount of pain on Linda and though she begs to only try and escape Chuck for a few hours after her mother delivers her answer she is still scared as to what those beliefs mean for the rest of her life. This scene exudes what is best about Lovelace. Not only that it tries to give real justification to the actions we all know about concerning the subject of the film, but the quality of acting. Seyfried has become a kind of go-to girl for easy thrillers and romantic comedies, just see (or rather don't) films like Gone, Red Riding Hood, or Letters to Juliet and you'll understand what's become convenient for the actress. With this and last falls spot as the older Cosette in Les Miserables she at least seems to be attempting to take roles that challenge her and Linda Lovelace does exactly that. Seyfried is able to play up the victim without ever reducing her to this single characterization. We see the men using her, the grimy world they exist in and how nothing here ever comes off as sexy as much as it does an everyday part of the job. Seyfried is fragile and goes on a real arc that takes us from naive and optimistic to strong and defiant. She is a tragic figure with all the facets of a human being an actress might hope to play, but even with such an opportunity Seyfried never lets us forget that she isn't in command of her fate, and how completely wrong that is. Other familiar faces pop up throughout with Adam Brody playing Harry Reems, Linda's co-star as well as the likes of Wes Bentley, Chloe Sevigny and Eric Roberts in bit parts for only one scene. Lovelace is a well-made film and it has good intentions, but even as it comes to too clean of an ending in what is ultimately a triumph for Linda the film never seems to crosses the hurdle from being generic to that of a poignant and profound character study.