The pornography industry is not exactly known for its clean dealings and open business environment, and Lovelace as a film doesn’t do much to improve this image. It is a biographical drama film about the life of Linda Boreman, who used the stage name Linda Lovelace. Directed by Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman and starring Amanda Seyfried and Peter Sarsgaard, the film is intense to watch, and deals with heavy adult contents. There are problems with historical accuracy, as well as a fairly weak narrative, but the acting was superbly done, and it offered an interesting glimpse into the world of adult filmmaking, even if that view was altered.
The narrative follows the life of Linda Boreman (Amanda Seyfried), starting when she was 21 years old and met the charming and flirtatious Chuck Traynor (Peter Sarsgaard). She appears to be insecure about her body after a pregnancy (the baby is adopted and she never sees it again), and lives with her domineering mother. After period of time, Linda moves off with Chuck, and eventually the pair marry. Everything seems to be going swimmingly, but the pair is short on money, and Chuck suggests that Linda engage in some adult filmmaking to help make ends meet. She gets a part in a new type of pornographic film, called Deep Throat, which showcases her considerable sexual skills. The movie does exceptionally well in the box office, and she becomes a star, rising up to associate with people as influential and famous as Hugh Hefner (James Franco). Everything appears to be going very well.
This is all shown to be an illusion: There is a sudden leap forward, with an older Linda attached to a polygraph, talking about her experiences, which will be turned into an autobiography. The movie then goes to retell the entire saga in a very different light. Scenes are lengthened out, showing a much darker state of affairs in the Traynor household. Chuck is manipulative and abusive, using threats and violence to get what he wants. He controls Linda’s finances, driving them both into debt. Eventually, she manages to get help from an old investor of hers, who beats up Chuck, allowing Linda to file for divorce and write a book. In the end, she leaves the world of adult cinema behind entirely, taking on a new name and a new identity, with a husband and child.
There are a few problems that exist with the movie. First and foremost is the weak narrative which was stretched out and could have been addressed in a better fashion. For example, the scene in which she reveals her life wasn’t perfect appears out of the blue. It would have been much more effectively placed at the beginning of the movie, so it would be a story with direction, rather than a slightly aimless piece. In regards to the revisiting of the events of the marriage between Chuck and Linda, an understanding of events assists an audience who may be unfamiliar with the events surrounding the historical figure of Linda Lovelace/Boremann, but having a replaying of events caused confusion for the audience in regards to timeline of the movie.
There were several threads of ideas that were picked up and dropped without much reference again throughout the movie. For example, Linda’s first child caused obvious emotional scars (as well as well as physical ones), and this created a sense of insecurity in her physical appearance. However, after one or two scenes, both her insecurities about her appearance and dealing with adopting out a child are never mentioned again, or even hinted at. This was stretching believability to its limits, especially considering how cautious Linda was written to be in the first few scenes. The replay of events through a reconsidered lens was interesting, but there were issues with this too. There was a chance to approach the retelling of stories from different perspectives, which didn’t occur, although it was slightly hinted at by hiding certain events, such as when Chuck was throwing Linda around the room, and the producers of Deep Throat mistook her screams of pains as those of pleasure.
In addition, the film appears to conflate domestic violence with the porn industry: ie. all female porn workers must have been coerced or morally bankrupt. Still, Lovelace’s costar (a moustached Adam Brody) is a sympathetic character, as are the film directors and the investor. One who is more studied in feminist theory would no doubt be able to give a better critique on these issues.
Despite these problems, the acting was superb, with leads Amanda Seyfried and Peter Sarsgaard spot-on, as well as the supporting actors. The portrayal of domestic violence in a relationship was also very well done, as was the feeling of fear of being trapped in such a relationship. The replaying of events, despite its faults, also had a strong emotional impact. By systematically reducing the triumphalism that existed in the first half of the movie, it helped to create a huge amount of sympathy with Linda and her plight.
Overall, Lovelace is not bad. It is intense, due to the content of the story, and not exactly a family friendly movie. There are several structural issues and narrative issues, but the portrayal of domestic violence and coercion in the adult industry does help to remedy some of these issues. As a historical representation of what occurred, it is important to remember there is still numerous controversies over the events that occurred, so there may or may not be inaccuracies with the portrayal of actual events.
As a movie, it at least sparks interest in the history and shady business behind the scenes of the porn industry at least, but as a historical documentary it isn’t great. However, despite its flaws, it is an interesting watch.