Lovelace (2013), Review

Lovelace brings the audience to a happy climax only to make us choke on the laughter.

Lovelace was playing in two theaters, I felt the theater in Times Square made more sense and I got there early. I should have gone to Diamond Club or Private Eyes to continue the theme but having reviewed Caligula I don’t want to go from Gangster Geek to Porn Geek so I made the kid who sells tickets at Time Scare do card tricks for me instead. People yelled at the screen during the trailers and a guy was snoring loudly in the row behind me. Some things don’t change in Times Square. I only saw Deep Throat once, when I was a teenager working construction. The super projected it against the wall of the laborer’s shanty. I never really was a porn person, B-movie horror is porn enough for me, and no, that doesn’t mean I’m into S&M. Doing it beats watching it and having it done unto you is what Deep Throat was all about.

Deep Throat was a phenomenon. It made $600 million and Linda Lovelace made about $1,200. Deep Throat went beyond porn, it became culture. Bob Hope and Johnny Carson joked about it. It gave Mark Felt a code name for Woodward and Bernstein. Called the “Gone With the Wind of Porn,” Deep Throat was more like the Jaws of porn. It opened wide, to paraphrase David Crow, and swallowed movie audiences whole. It was the second and final porn crossover hit. George Hamilton and Jackie O lined up to see it. Dick Cavett interviewed the cast. It was an important piece of film. It was a blow across the bow of the First Amendment in the middle of the sexual revolution. And no one knew the abuse Lovelace went through.

Lovelace opens with the phenomena, set amid radio friendly 70s hits that used to be the stable of CBS-FM until they got jacked and lost their flow. Songs like Norman Greenbaum’s “Spirit in the Sky” and Elvin Bishop’s “Fooled Around and Fell in Love” undercut happy moments of sexual and romantic discovery. The credits roll over a four-on-the-floor disco beat with synthetic strings. Directors Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman filmed it in seventies faux-grain. I love grainy movies, they have character. The grains are the warts and the pores on the skin that most filmmakers cover with makeup like Debi Mazar’s Dolly Sharp does to Linda’s freckles.

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Linda Boreman is shown to be more or less innocent. Her mother, Dorothy Boreman, played by an almost unrecognizable Sharon Stone, gave Linda’s baby up for adoption by making Linda sign what she thought were circumcision papers. Penises (penii?) loom large in Linda’s life. She and her family are wooed and won by Chuck Traynor. Traynor is played by Peter Sarsgaard in a balanced off-balance performance (but who absolutely makes the throat hungry for lines of coke as it goes up his nose in delicious snorts) who is the picture of charm and working class sophistication.

The first part of the movie rises with the dream of Deep Throat, the fame, the fun, the goofy characters who all seem so affable and funny. Little hints come here and there to show there’s a darker underside, like welts on a creamy leg, to what we’re seeing. But it’s all sweetness and light. Chuck, the generous lover, goes down on Linda in her parents’ kitchen while they are watching Jimmy Stewart deal with a crying baby in Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life. Chuck teaches Linda to give head like it’s a new age affirmation. Chuck saves Linda from an overbearing mother and aloof ex-cop father, John Boreman played by Robert Patrick. I always called Robert Patrick “the Terminator” guy even though I haven’t seen the Terminator movies. I followed him through The X-Files, The Sopranos and watch him now on True Blood and he is the picture of repressed pain. The more he holds it in, the more it wrenches.

Snippets of darkness come when Chuck gets in trouble at work. “Don’t ask me about my work?” Who does he think he is? Michael Corleone? But she asks and then winds up paying for it. Chuck runs a tittie bar and the local cops want their take and they’re going to get it from Linda’s hide. They head off to New York and meet the nicest couple of pornographers you ever want to meet, Bobby Cannavale’s Butchie Peraino and Hank Azaria’s Gerard Damiano, the director of Deep Throat. Cannevale smoking his American Spirits, the cigarettes that are so natural they’re almost good for you, Azaria with that wonderful mismatched rug. Cannevale and Azaria play it full of humor and bonhomie. They are making art. Not mere porn. Their money man is Anthony Romano, played by Chris Noth, always too charming for his own good. I almost stopped watching Law and Order when he left.

Linda Boreman is the girl next door you want to fuck. She’s not the ideal: blonde with bit tits and a nice round ass. Damiano is the first to recognize Boreman’s talents in a home-made porno Chuck shot. “That’s art. Can she do that with a big cock? No offense,” Peraino asks and Chuck says his lovely Linda can swallow anything. Porno stars have to “have many talents” Dolly advises, like she’s Xena, the warrior princess of porno. Of course, the name’s got to go, and Linda Boreman becomes Linda Lovelace.

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On set Linda meets Harry Reems (Adam Brody from The Gilmore Girls, Thank You for Smoking and Jennifer’s Body) who used to be known as Dick Long, but that was too obvious. Linda’s talents are such that even a seasoned pro like Reems turns into a teenaged amateur ruining a take by prematurely ejaculating. Linda asks “Did I do anything wrong?” “No,” Azaria and Cannavale chorus good-naturedly. Andy Bellin, who wrote the script based on Linda Lovelace’s confessional, anti-pornography book, Ordeal, brings the humor of Deep Throat and its producers to the front, all the better to make you gag on your laughter later.

Deep Throat becomes the hit we know today. Every late-night joke tears apart Linda’s mother Dorothy. But Linda becomes a star. She is feted by Hugh Hefner, an underplayed James Franco, and meets Sammy Davis Jr. Things look like they couldn’t get any better. Deep Throat 2 and 3 are already in the works and Romano promises to double Linda’s fees. And then it all comes crashing down as the movie retraces its steps and fills in the blanks. Chuck is too sleazy for the sleaziest of smut mongers. He beat his wife, threatened her with his .38, pimped her to be gang banged and drove her to take refuge on The Phil Donahue Show. I got a big kick out of Romano whipping Chuck’s ass with his belt, like an old-school Italian father protecting his daughter.

This is Amanda Seyfried’s movie. She gives a nuanced performance of ravaged innocence and Long Island redemption as the married Linda Marchiano. She never loses the Bronx girl trapped in the Florida breakaway. Amanda, who was one of the stars of Big Love, shows more big love here. When she is in love with Chuck, it looks like real love. When she is being broken, she hides her pain until it comes oozing through those expressive eyes, even behind the brown contact lenses, down her cheeks. All the performances are stellar and the alternative realities are a new cinematic twist. Linda Lovelace in the film says her life will forever be judged by 17 days. Lovelace herself made nine adult films including Dogorama and Linda Lovelace for President. This film fudges that to make her a one-hit wonder, but why quibble?

Den of Geek Rating: 4 Out of 5 Stars


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4 out of 5