Considering the directions that a biopic of Linda Lovelace could have taken, that the end result is so dark, downbeat and free of titillation is largely commendable. Once upon a time a project that Lindsey Lohan was heavily linked with, the title role here is taken by Amanda Seyfried, one of the finest actresses of her generation, and she’s – once again – terrific. From the earliest innocent days of Lovelace, through to where we find her at the end of the movie, it’s a nuanced and bold performance, that captures the darkness engulfing her. Furthermore, she carries the different ages of the character as we meet her through the film convincingly.
The film, for the most part, is effectively a two hander, with the other prominent role here being that of Chuck Traynor, an infamous and not particularly nice human being. Played here by Peter Sarsgaard, Traynor starts out as a friendly man, luring the innocent Lovelace into a new world and new experiences, and overseeing her becoming a massive star off the back of the infamous porn movie, Deep Throat. But as he installs himself as her manager, and following the pair getting married, things take a turn.
And that’s where Lovelace the movie has its focus. This is the story of an unhappy marriage, one where the overriding nastiness and influence of one person is entirely to the detriment of the other. It’s a brutal, unpleasant film to watch at times for that reason, as Sarsgaard’s strong performance as Traynor creeps deeply under your skin. Furthermore, Seyfried gets across the damage that events, fame, control and violence have on Linda Lovelace’s life.
Yet the film’s strongest and most haunting moments are spent with Lovelace’s parents. Played by Robert Patrick and a barely recognisable Sharon Stone, there’s a moment in the film where Linda’s father tells her he’s seen her film, and the chill in the air as he does so is palpable. It’s a mixture of tenderness and confusion, a father loving his daughter but not knowing what to make of her life, that sticks in the mind long after the film has finished.
There’s solid support elsewhere in the film. James Franco turns in another good cameo, this time as Hugh Hefner, whilst Hank Azaria is good value as Gerard Damiano, the director of Deep Throat (a production that Lovelace takes you behind the scenes of and convincingly recreates, albeit with limits). However, for the most part, the supporting roles are minimal, and there’s not much room to do too much with them. It’s not, ultimately, what the movie is interested in.
Directors Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman, meanwhile, capture the feel of the era well, and wisely spend as much time with Seyfried’s take on Lovelace as possible. However, what they don’t settle on is the film that they want to make. By turns a tale of the 70s porn industry, and the story of a woman in a horrible relationship, Lovelace is a relatively short film that feels a little too unsettled. It doesn’t help that you can’t help but feel Boogie Nights did a lot of this better, getting across the culture, the rise, and the victims of the adult industry. Lovelace can’t, in truth, get close to that, no matter how strong its cast is.
Lovelace, therefore, is an interesting film, but never feels like a definitive one. Significantly strengthened by some excellent acting work, it’s a starting point for those interested in the era, and the haunting story of Linda Lovelace. But it feels like an opportunity missed that that’s all it is.
Lovelace is out in UK cinemas now.
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