In 1972, Gerard Damiano’s cult porno Deep Throat launched the short-lived but infamous career of Linda Lovelace, as well as pushing ‘adult entertainment’ into the American public consciousness after the film went on to become a box office smash. Now, Amanda Seyfried takes on the role of the doe-eyed girl next door turned scandalous sex symbol in Lovelace (2013). We open as the sweet and innocent 21-year-old Linda meets the seemingly charming Chuck Traynor (a moustachioed Peter Sarsgaard) at a local skate rink. Fast-forward a couple of months and the pair are happily married, but extremely short on cash.
Sadly, Lovelace’s mutton-chopped husband soon shows his dark side when he convinces her to become a porn star. Saturated in a kitschy 70s aesthetic, Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman (the duo behind Ginsberg biopic Howl) quickly show their true colours, more concerned with aesthetics and narrative gimmickry – provided by writer Andy Bellin – than the tragic tale itself. The tone of the first half of the movie is not dissimilar to that of the pornos which it depicts the filming of; cheeky and impish, with a healthy dose of naughtiness. Then the tone jarringly shifts to depict the true disturbing events, including one scene in which a red-faced Traynor forces Lovelace to sleep with a group of bulbous men in a seedy hotel room.
There is a palpable sense of distress underpinning the film’s most violent moments. Yet, a sense of frustration is also triggered by the directors’ inability to truly understand and explore Lovelace as a person rather than a sex object. No one can deny the hardship that this naive young woman went through; threatened by Traynor with a gun, continually beaten by her abusive spouse and used as a sex slave for his own amusement. Sadly, though, Epstein and Friedman too often opt for tacky exploitation, once again making Lovelace an inanimate tool for men to drool over. Seyfried should still be commended on her performance, although she does seem less capable of handling the post-porn Lovelace.
Lovelace’s script simply isn’t there, it’s tone is oddly cartoonish and it never feels like it’s striving to be anything more than pulp sensationalism. Ultimately, however, it’s the film’s insistence on repetition (scenes are often shot twice – glamorised in the former, realist in the latter) that really drags this weak account of the pitiful former porn star down to the depths. Half-baked in its endeavours, this is a disappointing biopic of an individual who suffered greatly at the hands of the men around her, yet survived to tell the tale. Sadly, Friedman and Epstein seem to care little for the actual woman behind the ‘legend’.