Apart from raising the obvious question of the need (or an audience) for a biopic on Linda Lovelace, Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman’s Lovelace can’t escape being more curious than compelling. The basic notion of treating X-rated material with a well-scrubbed R-rated approach makes the film feel a little phony — a sense that’s compounded by populating the movie with well-known actors in nearly every supporting role. (It’s distracting when you keep thinking, “Oh, look, it’s Eric Roberts,” or whatever name actor pops up in nearly every scene.) Don’t misunderstand, Lovelace isn’t a bad movie. In fact, it’s a pretty good one, but it definitely feels constrained and compromised. It is most certainly simplified. I don’t, for example, object to the fact that it omits any mention of the notorious 8mm short Dog-A-Rama (1971), but presenting Lovelace (Amanda Seyfried) as pretty, wide-eyed and innocent at the time of Deep Throat (1972) seems faux-ingenuous. (In the film’s favor, it doesn’t subscribe to the more improbable aspects of Lovelace’s autobiography.)
What we have here is a fairly basic cautionary tale. It finds sheltered — even repressed — Linda Boreman being dazzled by sleazy charmer Chuck Traynor (Peter Sarsgaard), allowing him to spirit her away from her hardcore Catholic mom (Sharon Stone) and ineffectual father (Robert Patrick). It’s not hard to see why she takes up with Traynor, but it’s obvious from the outside that this is just not a good idea — even if we didn’t know the story and even if Sarsgaard didn’t ooze sleaze from every pore. And, of course, it isn’t. Chuck quickly introduces her to what we might call a counter-culture lifestyle — including some homemade footage that he uses to convince porn producers that Linda has something new to offer the porno industry. (Since the film is bizarrely tentative about such matters, we’re left on our own to divine what that may be — or extrapolate it from the title of her big success, Deep Throat.) So Linda becomes a media sensation when Deep Throat turns out to be a huge hit that crosses over to the mainstream. Then, of course, it all falls apart, and we learn how awful Traynor really is. Finally, Linda reclaims her life and herself. While more or less true, it’s definitely on the simplistic side.
In its favor, Seyfried is convincing and appealing in the title role. The period detail is reasonably authentic and the screenplay manages several clever bits of insight and observation. What it never is, though, is daring — something the subject would seem to require. But what exactly is the point of the whole thing? Both Deep Throat and Linda Lovelace are period pieces now — snapshot footnotes to an era long past. The question that the film never addresses is whether they were ever anything more than that — transitory curiosities that were more notorious than actually famous. Rate R for strong sexual content, nudity, language, drug use and some domestic violence.
Playing at Carolina Cinemas