Lovelace is an odd film. Trying to be a biopic of Linda Lovelace, the first porn star of significant note, it tries to mold two distinct vantage points on Lovelace’s life. The first is that of Lovelace, the pro-porn advocate who got into pornography with her husband’s approval. Deep Throat would become a cultural phenomenon, Lovelace permanently etched into the cultural landscape as an actress of note (but for perhaps not the reasons she thought). The second is that of Lovelace the anti-porn advocate, forced into the world of adult cinema by an abusive husband.
The film focuses on 1970-74, the years where Lovelace was active as an adult film actress. It’s a tale told twice, looking at the same events but in two distinct ways.
This is an attempt at meshing the two distinctive ideas of Lovelace that have become popular. The first comes from two novels, “Inside Linda Lovelace” and “The Intimate Diary of Linda Lovelace,” that portray the first image of Lovelace as someone who walked into that world with her eyes open. Some things, like bruising on her arms, don’t sit right. But for Lovelace (Amanda Seyfried) this is a conscious choice she earned via some amateur porn she made with her husband (Peter Sarsgaard). This is the first half of the film, featuring Lovelace as someone who came into porn but had a secret to hide about her personal life.
This is the better of the two halves of the film because it feels more honest. Seyfried is given a flawed character who gets into something she later regrets. It’s closer to Boogie Nights in spirit, focusing on a flawed character in a messed up situation. This is a genuine character study, focusing on Lovelace the person and presenting a complex character and life. Sarsgaard is given time to be drawn out as compelling villain.
The second half focuses on the “anti-porn” books of Lovelace, “Ordeal” and “Out of Bondage,” that marked the second interpretation of Lovelace’s life. This is where Lovelace claimed the part where she was willing was incorrect, that she had been a victim of substantial spousal abuse.
This is definitely the lesser of the two halves, as Lovelace is turned into a horror film victim and Sarsgaard is given nothing to do but practically twirl a mustache. This is Lovelace as a pure victim, her husband being this evil, evil man who forces her to do various things for evil, evil reasons. The only thing Sarsgaard doesn’t do is kick a puppy in this half to establish himself as the bad guy.
It makes the film disjointed. On the one hand an expanded version of the first half, with such an interesting start, would make for a compelling look at Linda Lovelace. It’s more nuanced than the latter, which feels like something Lovelace herself would’ve written and directed.
On the whole Lovelance stands as a profoundly flawed film because of it.
A generic making of piece is included.
Anchor Bay presents Lovelace. Directed by Rob Epstein & Jeffrey Friedman. Written by Andy Bellin. Starring Amanda Seyfried, Peter Sarsgaard, Sharon Stone, Robert Patrick, Juno Temple, Chris Noth. Running time: 93 minutes. Rated R. Released: November 5, 2013.