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Overall Rating
2.08

Awesome: 0%
Worth A Look: 0%
Average53.85%
Pretty Bad: 0%
Total Crap: 46.15%

2 reviews, 1 rating


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Lovelace
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by Peter Sobczynski

"Just Make Up Your Own Dirty-Minded Headline. . ."
1 stars

Now that we are living in a time when hard-core pornography is readily available to anyone with a computer and a credit card number (and one can even skirt by without the latter if need be) and a filmed record of someone performing sexual acts that could have gotten them arrested only a few decades earlier can now serve as the basis of a lucrative celebrity career, explaining the massive impact that the landmark porn film "Deep Throat" made when it first exploded upon the American cultural consciousness in 1972 to someone who wasn't there at the time seems almost impossible. After seeing "Lovelace," a new docudrama chronicling the events surrounding the film and its equally controversial star, Linda Lovelace, I imagine that doing so will now be even more difficult. It seems impossible that anyone could make an uninteresting film out of such subject matter but this film not only does that, it also manages to be ineptly staged, poorly acted, unintentionally funny and historically suspect to boot. In essence, it wants to be this generation's version of the justly acclaimed "Boogie Nights" but it barely rises to the level of the justly forgotten "Made Men."

As the film opens, Linda Boreman (Amada Seyfried) is an modest and unassuming young woman living in Florida with her strict mother (Sharon Stone) and more relaxed father (Robert Patrick) when she meets slick small-time strip club owner Chuck Traynor (Peter Sarsgaard). Although his line of patter and creepy facial hair would be instant warning signs for most people, Linda finds herself swept off her feet and the two are soon married. Fairly uptight about sex as a result of her past, Linda begins to loosen up and even allows Chuck to teach her the finer points of oral sex, a task that she takes to like a horse to water and boy, do I wish I could have rephrased that. Her ability to effortlessly take in far more than would seem to be physically possible is astonishing and when Chuck shows a home movie of her at work to fledgling porn filmmakers Gerry Damiano (Hank Azaria) and Butchie Peranino (Bobby Cannavale), they realize that they are sitting on a potential gold mine and devise an entire film around her talents entitled "Deep Throat" in which she was rechristened Linda Lovelace.

Financed by mob money, represented here by Anthony Romano (Chris Noth) and co-starring struggling legitimate actor Harry Reems (Adam Brody), the film was the center of numerous court cases regarding obscenity became the first pornographic film to truly break through into the mainstream--Johnny Carson used to make jokes about it in his monologues, the title was used as a nickname for Bob Woodward's key informant in his investigation of the Watergate break-in and it is said to have grossed hundreds of millions of dollars over the years. As for Linda, although she was paid a paltry sum for her screen efforts, she became an overnight sex symbol as well and soon found herself rubbing shoulders (among other body parts) with the likes of Hugh Hefner (played, perhaps inevitably, by James Franco) and Sammy Davis Jr. while serving as a spokeswoman for the then-burgeoning sexual revolution.

In other words, take away a few of the seamier details and her story was pretty much pure Horatio Alger. Within a couple of years, however, Linda would leave Chuck and the film industry and when she reemerged a few years later, now remarried and with a child of her own, it was to release a biography chronicling her brutally abusive relationship to Traynor and how he forced her to appear in "Deep Throat" against her will while stealing all the money that would be generated by her efforts. Before long, the feminist movement that once scorned her now embraced her with open arms and Linda would go on to becoming one of the leading faces of the anti-porn movement through lectures, talk-show appearances and a second biography about the horrors she endured.

Whether one looks at it from a sociological standpoint or merely as human drama, "Lovelace" would seem to have all the necessary ingredients for a compelling film but practically right from the start, co-directors Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman and screenwriter Andy Bellin botch the job. In an attempt to reconcile Linda's radically different accounts of her experiences, the film tries a relatively ambitious structural gambit. For roughly the first half of the film, we see her story as the sexy series of fun and games that was the popular perception of the time and in the second half, we witness the same events again, only this time with all the violence, drug use, sexual exploitation and other sordid material that was left out during the first go-around. This is an interesting idea in theory but, as deployed here, it is pretty much a failure here. If you are familiar with the Linda Lovelace saga--and my guess is that few will be attending this movie without some working knowledge of the story--and unfamiliar with the conceit behind the structure, you are going to spend the first half of the film distracted by the fact that the film seems to be going out of its way to leave things out. And whether you know the story or not, the second half is such a grim and unpleasant slog that most will find it simply unendurable from a dramatic standpoint.

Regardless of the structure, there is still the sense that there is a lot more to the story than the stuff that made it to the screen. From a historical perspective, the films omits a number of key details that might muddy up the dramatic through-line of a good girl who goes bad due to a cruel man and eventually rejects her sordid surroundings for something more conventional. Now I can understand why the film would want to omit the stuff involving certain short films of an unspeakable nature that she made before "Deep Throat" but there are plenty of other provocative areas of inquiry that it avoids--the charges by co-workers that many of the allegations in her books were exaggerated at best and fabrications at worst (though practically everyone but Traynor agreed that he was a monster), Linda's eventual disenchantment with the feminist movement that she grew to feel exploited her as much as the pornographic industry did and the fact that she actually dipped her toe back into the erotica industry that she had been decrying before her death in an auto accident in 2002. Even a simple mention of these aspects in the string of ending title cards that otherwise point out her triumph over the porn industry might have gone a long way towards balancing the story out.

Even taken strictly on its own dramatic terms, there is the nagging sense throughout that there is a lot of seemingly important stuff that seems to have gone missing. We never get any real sense of how Chuck was able to worm his way into Linda's life in the first place--what was it about his overtly sleazo demeanor that won over a mother so strict that a minor curfew violation earns a vicious smack to the face? We never get any real sense as to the inner workings of the porn industry and how she and "Deep Throat" brought it into the mainstream. We never get any real idea of why, having left the industry and reinvented herself as an ordinary suburban wife and mother, she would voluntarily expose herself again with the publication of her biography. We keep hearing about how devastated Linda's mom is when she hears jokes about her daughter on television but the film mystifyingly omits what could have been one of the most potentially powerful moments--her mother's initial discovery of what she has done--and leaves a gaping hole in the narrative that it never recovers from. (Then again, considering its relatively short running time and the fleeting appearances of actors like Chloe Sevigny in parts too tiny to even be regarded as cameos suggests that a lot more was shot but that a good deal of it wound up on the cutting room floor for whatever reason.)

Many of these holes in "Lovelace" might have been filled (Editor's note: Please change this immediately) to some degree if the actors were able to bring a sense of reality to the proceedings but that is unfortunately not the case here. In a weird way, casting Amanda Seyfried as Linda makes a weird sort of sense--as anyone who has seen "Deep Throat" can attest, emoting was not exactly her strong point and Seyfried has often been little more than a pretty and wide-eyed blank in most of her previous roles--but the sense of dull surprise that is her only acting chop on display here grows wearying after a while and even her willingness to actually do the required nudity (though nothing that would threaten the "R" rating) fails to give the movie much of a charge. Not only do we not learn anything more about Linda Lovelace after seeing this film, I think we actually learn less. The other actors, most of whom presumably signed on in the hopes that this would be the next "Boogie Nights" than on the quality of the script, run the gamut from Hank Azaria's spot-on turn as Gerard Damiano to Chris Noth's logy presence in what he was presumably told was the Alec Baldwin role to a turn by Sharon Stone that is so lousy that it comes very close to rivaling Jodie Foster's work in "Elysium" for the title of Worst Performance By A Talented Actress In A Film Opening This Weekend."

This month seems to be the time for awful biopics to hit the screen and while "Lovelace" may not be as spectacularly idiotic as the one that I cannot talk about now but will address at length next week, it is the far more disappointing of the two. It takes a potentially fascinating story and reduces it to the level of a more-explicit-than-usual Lifetime movie that has nothing to offer viewers other than trite insights and several moderately famous and questionably groomed faces decked out in the gauchest fashions imaginable. There is a complex and fascinating tale to be told here but "Lovelace" never finds it. The funny thing is that this marks the second time that a pair of directors have tried to mine this material--Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato previously used it for the 2005 documentary "Inside Deep Throat"--and Epstein and Friedman make so many of the same mistakes as the earlier film that it feels as it were the only source that they utilized during the research process. Well, after this one disappears from view--and judging from its minuscule release, that should be pretty soon--someone else will give it the old college try. If someone does, let us all pray that they forget about the existence of this film as much as I hope to very soon.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=24670&reviewer=389
originally posted: 08/09/13 13:22:44
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2013 Sundance Film Festival For more in the 2013 Sundance Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2013 Provincetown International Film Festival For more in the 2013 Provincetown International Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

12/09/13 mr.mike It was halfway decent. 3 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  09-Aug-2013 (R)
  DVD: 05-Nov-2013

UK
  23-Aug-2013

Australia
  09-Aug-2013 (MA)
  DVD: 05-Nov-2013




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