It's funny to think how a term that's so prevalent in the vernacular was such a novelty back in the 1970's. Who hasn't heard of Deep Throat, a pornographic film that transcended its genre, and is considered one of the most popular and profitable porn films of all time. It also made it's star, Linda Lovelace, a household name. Lovelace, gives us a glimpse into her life and the making of Deep Throat.
Linda Boreman (Amanda Seyfried) was a shy, reserved girl living with her parents. Despite being over 18, they still were very strict and her mother Dorothy (Sharon Stone) was as an overbearing presence. That's usually not a good sign, right? After meeting Chuck Traynor (Peter Sarsgaard), the two of them quickly move in together and get married. After a series of arrests and money troubles, Chuck convinces Linda to star in porn films. It doesn't take a genius to see that Chuck has a similar, domineering influence over Linda, too. Taking on the name Linda Lovelace, her first film is the aforementioned Deep Throat. Due to it actually having a plot and it's high production values, as well as the girl-next-door appeal of Lovelace, it became a popular hit. People lined up to see it. For you younger folks out there, people used to have to go to an adult theater to see a porn. You couldn't just open your web browser and conveniently find whatever you're looking for.
Linda's enjoying her fame and sexual liberation, and everyone seems to be thrilled with the success of Deep Throat. For the first half, Lovelace is a fun, Boogie Nights-ish tale. The apex of this is when Linda attends a gala screening and meets people like Sammy Davis Jr. and Hugh Hefner (James Franco. Yes, that James Franco). It's also marks the point where a tone takes a drastic shift. For a second, I thought something was wrong with my On-Demand, as I saw a few replays of earlier scenes. Only this time, they are told from a much different perspective. The second half of Lovelace tells a story of abuse, drug use, and forced prostitution, as Linda tells her side of the story for her autobiography.
Linda wanted to get this out there so people would be aware of what really happened and hope that other women don't make the same mistakes. While this is compelling and you feel for her, I found it hard to connect with. It's interesting that at the end, you see a clip from an appearance on the Donahue show where an audience member says to her that she also finds her hard to relate to. I'm not saying that I don't believe her story, or that I don't understand the fear and inability to get away from Chuck, but for the first half of the film, Linda seems like a willing participant. I keep coming back to the issue of tone, and there's where I think the disconnect was really felt for me. The first half is light and sexy, where the second half is dark and depressing. You've been enjoying Lovelace up to a point, and then they pull the rug out from under you. I think it was a mistake to tell her story as two separate sides. It would have been a stronger, and more sympathetic tale if the abuse had been clear from the beginning.
Also, with the way the film awkwardly looped on itself, it wasn't clear how much time had passed. Only about six months span the time from when Linda and Chuck meet to when Deep Throat is made, and this goes by pretty quickly. We later jump ahead six years to her already being remarried with a son who looked to be about 4 or 5-years-old, and according to Wikipedia was born in 1977. Lovelace begins in 1970, six month pass, Deep Throat comes out in 1972, she divorced Traynor in 1974 and remarried also in 1974. Unless we saw multiple six month and year jumps, the timing doesn't quite work out.
What kept me watching were the performances. I thought Amanda Seyfried did a great job of being sweet and portrayed a wide-eyed innocence. Later we see her vulnerability as she struggles with everything. Also, I thought the makeup transformation Seyfried went through was pretty impressive. It's not like she's wearing any prosthesis, but I could barely recognize the fair-skinned, blond, blue-eyed Seyfried, as the brown-eyed, freckled, curly haired Lovelace. Looking at pictures of the real Linda Lovelace, there were likely a few actors that may have looked more like her, but I think it was an inspired choice. I also didn't even recognize Sharon Stone as Linda's mother. I actually thought it was Wendie Malick. Peter Sarsgaard is also effectively creepy and scary as Chuck Traynor. It's the kind of performance that would also have worked in a Sleeping with the Enemy-type thriller. The strong supporting cast is rounded out with Adam Brody (as Harry Reems), Hank Azaria, Bobby Cannavale, Chris Noth and Robert Patrick. There's not a weak performance in the bunch. In fact, there's a scene with Robert Patrick towards the end that kind of got to me emotionally.
While featuring strong performances, the overall tone of Lovelace and subject matter make it hard to connect with. If you're a fan of old porn, or like movies set in the 70's, I think you'll enjoy the first half, but overall this is a rental. It's available on On-Demand now, but save yourself a few bucks and wait for Netflix.
2.5 (out of 5) Death Stars