Sunday, August 04, 2013

“Lovelace” – Movie Review



This weekend, my movie class had its final bonus screening of the summer with “Lovelace”, starring Amanda Seyfried, Peter Sarsgaard and a whole bunch of other familiar names and faces in various supporting roles.


When a young woman is forced into prostitution and pornography by her abusive husband, she finds unexpected national acclaim for a controversial movie in which she stars – but is she doomed to be forever exploited or can she somehow escape and live a normal life?


As a young woman of 22, Linda (Seyfried) finds herself trapped in the oppressive yoke of her strict and religious parents (Sharon Stone & Robert Patrick).  It is then that she meets Chuck Traynor (Sarsgaard), an older and worldlier man who owns a topless bar near the small Florida town in which she lives.  Swept up in his romantic charms, Linda runs off with Traynor, who soon marries her.  Unfortunately, Linda quickly discovers that she has gone from one imperious martinet to another as her new husband abuses her both physically and emotionally.   

After Traynor shows pornographic filmmaker Jerry Damiano (Hank Azaria) a 16mm film of Linda having sex with him, Damiano is so impressed that he immediately hires Linda to star in his next project – “Deep Throat”, in which Linda’s last name is changed to Lovelace.  Despite constant interference and interruptions by Traynor, Damiano is eventually able to complete the film; shortly after its release, it earns great renown – and considerable money, for an adult film of the 1970’s – due to its controversial theme.  Caught up in the eye of this hurricane of fame is the movie’s star, Linda Lovelace.    

Although her celebrity has allowed her to meet such luminaries as Hugh Hefner (James Franco) and Sammy Davis, Jr., both Linda and the film have been subject to ridicule – she winds up being the punch line to jokes by Johnny Carson and Bob Hope.  Even more distressing is the fact that Traynor’s non-stop abuse is complicated by the fact that he controls all of the money in their one-sided partnership; thanks to her notoriety, he conjures up half-baked business schemes to drain every possible penny out of the name Linda Lovelace.  Increasingly miserable and in fear for her life as an out-of-control Traynor’s drug usage escalates, can Linda emancipate herself from this existence and finally be in charge of her own destiny?   


As a callow youth in my early teens during the time when “Deep Throat” was released, I have vivid memories of how that movie became such a  cultural phenomenon – to say nothing of having vivid memories of my own pubescent fascination with its subject matter.  That said, it wasn’t until about a decade later that I finally saw the flick – and even then, it was a drastically edited version which displayed the more controversial scenes in such a distorted way as to render them unwatchable.  In this era of readily-available Internet porn, “Deep Throat” would today certainly be considered rather tame. 

Many times when viewing these screenings, I’m surprised – and as we all know, not all surprises are necessarily good.  “Lovelace”, however, was a very pleasant surprise.  It is not a movie from which I expected very much, but it delivered big time.  “Lovelace” boasts a great cast with fine performances and some really good – if not utterly audacious – filmmaking choices.  One thing that I particularly admired from the film’s story telling standpoint was how the filmmakers manipulated time – starting the story in the “present” of the early ‘70’s, it appears to initially be told in a somewhat sugar-coated way with Traynor almost coming off as Linda’s knight in shining armor who arrives in the nick of time to rescue her.  However, they then move forward six years and allow Linda to tell the account in flashbacks from her perspective – grittier and considerably darker than we were originally led to believe. 

I have no doubt that upon the release of “Lovelace”, most professional film critics will likely take a big, steaming dump all over it – undeservedly so.  This is a very watchable and entertaining film; people who expect it to be titillating will be immensely disappointed.  “Lovelace” is not a story about the pornography business so much as it is a compelling tale about a woman who somehow managed to survive domestic abuse in a time when our culture was considerably less knowledgeable and sympathetic to such things.  Posthumously, Linda Marchiano deservedly emerges as the all-time feminist heroine and the motion picture “Lovelace” is a creditable tribute that honors her memory.


Lovelace (2013) on IMDb 6.5/10826 votes


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