“Lovelace,” the biopic of hardcore porn actress Linda Lovelace, sometimes feels too academic to be consistently engaging, but it’s nonetheless a gripping tale that needs to be told because of its vivid depiction of the evils of domestic violence.
Some of her revelations are, well, hard to swallow, but the US film industry’s first porn superstar should be credited for refusing to remain a victim of her sordid past.
In 1972, Lovelace (Amanda Seyfried) was only 21 when she left her conservative parents’ home—and, with it, her deeply Catholic upbringing—for her sweet-talking husband-manager, Chuck Traynor (Peter Sarsgaard), who turned her into the poster girl for the sexual revolution. Ironically, in high school, Linda was nicknamed “Miss Holy Holy” because she kept her dates at a safe distance and was deemed too prissy!
But, Traynor was charm personified. He convinced his “subservient” wife to appear in “Deep Throat” (with Harry Reems, played by Adam Brody), the first scripted pornographic theatrical feature film.
Linda was paid only $1,250 for “acting” in it, but the porn classic that cost less than $50 thousand went on to gross more than $600 million at the box office—and drew the attention of Hugh Hefner (James Franco) and Sammy Davis Jr. The Pussycat Theater chain in Hollywood screened it daily—for over 10 years!
Sadly, married life wasn’t a stroll in the park for Lovelace, who endured spousal rape, physical abuse and forced prostitution. She recounted, “I was in the porn industry for only 17 days (the time it took to shoot ‘Deep Throat’),” but the painful pay-off had been a lifetime of shame.
True, she passed a polygraph test for her story, but she isn’t without culpability, because the hardcore loops, 8mm shorts made for peep shows, and the 1971 bestiality-themed “Dogarama” she appeared in before “Deep Throat” speak for themselves.
Filmmakers Jeffrey Friedman and Rob Epstein bare both sides of the coin, but whatever contradictory details they divulge can’t salve the grim repercussions that result from a woman’s inability to contradict her “man” and steer her own fate.
Sarsgaard and Seyfried’s fearless portrayals shine through “Lovelace’s” narrative clutter. The supporting cast also delivers textured turns.
Upon learning about the abuse, Sharon Stone (unrecognizable as Lovelace’s mother) refuses to take her daughter back, and instead asks her, “What did you do to make him angry? Go home, obey him and be a good wife!”
As Lovelace’s similarly repressed father (who, ironically, is a policeman), the award-worthy Robert Patrick is particularly memorable in his gut-wrenching phone conversation with his daughter, disclosing to her that he had already seen the infamous skin flick! He delivers his lines with great love and heartbreak.
For the most part, Lovelace didn’t run away from her past —in fact, she became an activist for more than 20 years, championing women’s causes. After their divorce, Traynor got married again, this time to Marilyn Chambers (“Behind the Green Door”)—the second most famous porn star of her time, after Lovelace!