Thursday, September 12, 2013

A Reel Review: LOVELACE

In her lifetime, Linda Lovelace, arguably the most famous porn star of all time, wrote two books about her life. The first, which is believed to have been ghost-written by her abusive husband at the time, portrays her as a sex-happy nympho who was in a constant state of party-time bliss. The second book, authored by Linda herself, painted her as a victim of spousal abuse and prostitution who was forced into the porn industry to pay off her husband’s debts. These two very different books are the basis for LOVELACE.
Linda Lovelace (Amanda Seyfried) is forced into a life of adult films and prostitution by her husband/manager Chuck (Peter Sarsgaard); a life which brings her fame after her role in the infamous porn film, DEEP THROAT.

LOVELACE sets itself up as a standard-fare, rags-to-riches, rise-fall-rise-again story as Linda is forced into a life she doesn’t really want but makes it work for herself. Just when things become predictable, the film takes a left-turn and offers alternate versions of previous scenes. It is at this point where LOVELACE goes from the adaptation of one book to another, while only taking a few moments to get that point across. Audiences who are not up-to-speed on the approach going in may be a bit confounded, as the sudden shift in tone is jarring and not quite explained enough.
Co-directors Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman are very faithful to the 1970’s era. The film has that soft and grainy 70’s look, and scenes which are re-created from DEEP THROAT are tastefully done and seemingly exact to the finest detail. LOVELACE however suffers from a lack of creativity in the editing department; there is a noticeable lack of zip or energy in the film as it slogs through endless scenes...and for a story full of sex and marital violence, there isn’t a whole lot to shock or surprise you.

Amanda Seyfried is excellent as Linda. She displays a wide range of emotions and isn’t afraid of showing her body for the camera; this can certainly be considered to be a “coming out” role for her. Peter Sarsgaard shows some great range in playing one of the most despicable characters in recent memory, and Sharon Stone literally vanishes into the role of Linda’s mother; Stone is so good audiences may be surprised when her name rolls around in the post-credits. Smaller roles are held down excellently by Juno Temple, Chris Noth, Robert Patrick, Bobby Cannavale, Hank Azaria, Adam Brody, Chloe Sevigny, and Eric Roberts…and James Franco turns in a weird, yet memorable performance as a young Hugh Hefner.
The finale turns into a doom-and-gloom morality lesson as it beats us over the head with the message of spousal abuse. Considering the efforts of the real-life Linda in her later life this is probably the way she would have wanted it, but as a movie it feels like the filmmakers were more concerned with the things that happened to Linda, more than the actual character whose name is on the poster. There is a lot to love in LOVELACE as the performances are great and the message is important, but there is a lot to be frustrated by as the storytelling is clunky and the characters are only explored so far. At the end of the night, LOVELACE is a lot of excellent foreplay with no real finish.


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