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Film Critic for Twin Cities Live

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Friday, December 27, 2013

Movie Rewind: LOVELACE (2013)

Director: Rob Epstein, Jeffrey Friedman
Starring: Amanda Seyfried, Peter Sarsgaard, Sharon Stone, Robert Patrick, Adam Brody, Chris Noth, Bobby Cannavale, Hank Azaria, James Franco

The world of pornography is fascinating, especially in the 1970s as it started to gain in popularity with the mainstream media. Much of this is due to Linda Lovelace and a little film she was in called Deep Throat. Linda (Seyfried) grew up in a pretty conservative household with her fairly strict parents (Stone and Patrick). I guess it was only time before she pulls a 180 and gets involved in drugs and porn. She meets Chuck Traynor (Sarsgaard) at a roller rink after she impresses him with her sexy dance moves. He schmoozes his way into her life causing a series of bad choices on her end. She inevitable moves out of her parents' house and in with him causing a rift with her parents.

It is not long before Linda learns of his involvement in the porn industry. He decides to make her his next big star after learning of her "gift" which inspires his new movie Deep Throat. Chuck's demanding and forceful presence on set raises some eyebrows from the producers (Noth and Azaria). Linda and co-star Harry Reams (Brody) become big stars once the film opens, and she starts to love all of the attention it comes with it. It comes with a price as Chuck grows increasingly violent and abusive toward her.

You know those Lifetime movies based on true stories that seem like the abridged Reader's Digest version of what actually happened? That is essentially what Lovelace feels like. The film has all of the right ingredients to be a probing insight into such a fascinating story. If you are completely unfamiliar with this story, this is a good introduction. If you have seen the documentary Inside Deep Throat, you know there is so much more to this story. The documentary focuses on the filming of Deep Throat and the impact it had on pop culture, the porn industry, and what happened to its stars. Lovelace spends its time on the horrible relationship between Linda Lovelace and Chuck Traynor. If I remember correctly, all of that is covered in the documentary. The script feels a bit choppy at times as it is trying to cover a lot of ground but in a short period of time. A lot of if feels a bit glossed over and does not ever feel too gritty or dark like the material happens to be. It plays it a bit too safe the majority of time. Not to sound crass, but there is barely any nudity in it. I am sure the filmmakers would say that the film is not about pornography, but Deep Throat plays a factor into it. It seems odd that the nudity is quite tame at times.

When you look at the cast list, you see some great actors involved turning in decent performances, but I question what drew them to the story. Did the script read better on paper and then got lost in translation to the screen? Yes, it is a fascinating story to tell, but this material does not do it justice. Some people like James Franco as Hugh Hefner show up in cameo size appearances. Sarah Jessica Parker filmed scenes as Gloria Steinem but they were edited out of the movie. The film is only ninety minutes, so how much of it was edited out? Peter Sarsgaard plays another despicable human being with Chuck Traynor. His performance would feel more authentic if he doesn't always seem to play this type of character over and over again. It is great to see Sharon Stone as Linda's mother. She is another one that gives a strong performance, but feels wasted at times with a lack of screen time. Maybe more of her scenes ended up on the cutting room floor as well. I applaud Seyfried for taking on such an edgy role. I suspect she was thinking this was going to be her break out of the more goody goody girl roles she normally plays. She is terrific with what she has been given, but she needed a better script and stronger directing to elevate the performance and push her even farther.

There is another Linda Lovelace movie in development called Inferno that had the likes of Malin Ackerman and Lindsay Lohan set to star as Linda Lovelace. That movie seems to be stalled, so we shall see if it ever gets made and turns out better than Lovelace. In the meantime, I would watch Deep Throat and then the documentary Inside Deep Throat for a thorough look into the history behind the iconic movie and the tragedy that was Linda Lovelace's life.

RATING: ** (2 out of 5 stars)

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  1. Good review Paul. While everybody in this movie definitely tries to make this thing work, the screenplay feels like it doesn't really go anywhere, nor actually be as interesting as it should. Especially if you take into consideration what it was that Lovelace's life turned into when she was done with the porn industry.

    1. Thanks Dan! It's such a shame because you really do feel like every actor is trying their best and think they are making a great movie but the script, editing, and directing cease to bring it to life. If I remember correctly, Lovelace went back and forth on her thoughts on the film and the truth behind her involvement with it.