Movie Information

The Story: Biopic of porn star Linda Lovelace. The Lowdown: Well-made, but ultimately rather simplistic and tepid biopic of the once-notorious star. Good performances and occasional bits of insight make it worthwhile, but it never becomes essential viewing.
Genre: Biopic
Director: Rob Epstein, Jeffrey Friedman (Howl)
Starring: Amanda Seyfried, Peter Sarsgaard, Juno Temple, Sharon Stone, Robert Patrick, Chris Noth
Rated: R

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

About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress from December 2000 until his death in June 2016. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

Before you comment

The comments section is here to provide a platform for civil dialogue on the issues we face together as a local community. Xpress is committed to offering this platform for all voices, but when the tone of the discussion gets nasty or strays off topic, we believe many people choose not to participate. Xpress editors are determined to moderate comments to ensure a constructive interchange is maintained. All comments judged not to be in keeping with the spirit of civil discourse will be removed and repeat violators will be banned. See here for our terms of service. Thank you for being part of this effort to promote respectful discussion.

5 thoughts on “Lovelace

  1. luluthebeast

    Did they go into what seemed to be a pretty miserable later life for Linda? And I agree with your final questions about it. A number of us from the theater went to see it in Orlando and the theater was running ten shows a day with the cops busted every day and the manager just paying a $500 fine and going back to work. It was just a huge cash cow for everyone except Linda. That other film was titled DOG LOVER when some friends brought over an 8mm of it. It’s a sad case where the producers and “backers” of these films make a fortune and most of the stars just get sick and die.

  2. Ken Hanke

    No, in fact, the film paints her later life as a pretty solid return to “normalcy” and a happy family life. I don’t know the truth, though I know the film omits much by making it look like her career ends with Deep Throat and that her exploitation ends with her relationship with Traynor. She — or someone — continued exploiting her notoriety for a few years after that.

    Back in 1974 when a friend of mine borrowed a copy of Dog-A-Rama from the meat cutter (I am not making this up) at the grocery store where said friend worked, I don’t know that there was any onscreen title. (The IMDb insists its original title was Dog Fucker, which I knew wasn’t making it into print.) By the bye, I think all copies were 8mm. That’s what it seems to have been shot on.

  3. DrSerizawa

    Deep Throat was at a theater in Hollywood for over a decade. Even during the era then when Hollywood Blvd was unfriendly for tourists there almost never failed to be tour buses parked by the theater.

  4. Ken Hanke

    Gotta let those folks from Dubuque see the wickedness of Tinseltown.

  5. Ken Hanke

    After an inauspicious opening, this will take its leave by Friday.

Leave a Reply

To leave a reply you may Login with your Mountain Xpress account, connect socially or enter your name and e-mail. Your e-mail address will not be published. All fields are required.