Lovelace, Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman’s biopic has won the race in the battle of the Linda Lovelace movies. Inferno: A Linda Lovelace Story is stuck in pre-production and may never see the light of day, having been well and truly pipped to the post. Inferno garnered a lot of publicity by announcing a troubled Lindsay Lohan in the titular role and then subsequently announcing her departure from the production. So that has left us with Lilo’s Mean Girls co-star, Amanda Seyfried in the spotlight.
Lovelace is a film of two halves. In the first, the tale of Linda Boreman’s transformation into Linda Lovelace is the public perception, what people believed at the time, what people thought they knew of Linda. We meet Linda as a naive teenager looking to break out from the shackles of her strict Catholic parents. She meets the charismatic go-go bar owner, Chuck Traynor, and embarks on a passionate whirlwind love affair. Quickly married, the Traynor’s encounter financial difficulties, Chuck’s solution to which is to get Linda the starring role in what is to become the most infamous porn film of all time, Deep Throat. Deep Throat was a true-crossover film, attracting unimaginable audiences and Linda became the face of the sexual revolution, a role she seemingly embraced. However, at key stages in the film, the narrative doubles back on itself to reveal what was really happening. At these points we see the systematic violence that Traynor subjected Linda to. Horrific physical, sexual psychological and financial abuse were daily occurrences with Linda being ordered to perform in Deep Throat at gunpoint. Finally having enough, the film culminates in Linda escaping Traynor, the release of her tell-all book Ordeal, and her reconciliation with her parents.
The strength of this film is all about the performances. Amanda Seyfried is simply brilliant in this interpretation of the Lovelace story. Bringing the right amount of innocence and knowing, Seyfried imbues Lovelace with a youthful naivety which is slowly worn away into desperation and despair. Sarsgaard is equally fantastic as the controlling Traynor, demonstrating his depravity, his desperate wannabe nature and his dependence on having the upper hand over Linda. Also worth a mention is James Franco in a scene stealing turn as the young(ish) Hugh Hefner.
What is sadly lacking in Lovelace is any sense of ambiguity. Lovelace is essentially an autobiography taken from Linda’s book Ordeal. It offers no examination or critique of the source. Yet strangely, it does not go quite far enough in its terminology. Linda stated that when you watch Deep Throat you are watching her being raped. But the film does nothing with this to explore the impact of this on the others involved. What was the reaction of her co-stars, what of her director, what of the industry as a whole? Likewise, the story of the Linda who became a spokesperson for the feminist anti-porn movement is missing. The ongoing appropriation of Linda Lovelace is fascinating and the way the feminist movement used her as the poster girl for their campaign reveals even more about the real Linda. Instead, Lovelace focuses on her redemption into domestic life and the family unit, a far too simplistic conclusion than Linda deserves.