Review: Esquire Looks at “Lovelace”; Wallows in Seventies Perms and Disco Tunes

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from – In the biopic Lovelace, which sold to Radius-Weinstein for a reported $3 million, Amanda Seyfried is the legendary porn star who played a sex addict with a clitoris deep down in her throat…

Lovelace….is a straight-up American tragedy. The first act unspools as the inspirational story of a small-town girl who becomes an icon of the sexual revolution thanks to her oral talents. It’s brash and silly, a kind of origin story in which you learn the exact moment when Bronx-born Linda Boreman learns to enjoy sex, and, most importantly, to breathe while going down on her horndog husband Chuck Traynor, played by an initially charming, mutton-chopped Peter Sarsgaard.

Historical clips catch talking heads praising Deep Throat’s impact on feminism. A prudish Johnny Carson makes easy jokes. Linda even gets to meet an admiring Hugh Hefner, played by, yes, James Franco.

Then the film lurches towards horror. All that ridiculous bad-joke porn turns out to be predicated on the horrific history of abuse Boreman would later recount in her 1980 memoir Ordeal, before becoming an anti-porn activist.

The latter half of the film is a gruesome, revisionist retelling of the first act, with forced prostitution and domestic abuse more graphic than any of the film’s sex. An unrecognizable Sharon Stone, who first seemed merely stern and overly protective as Boreman’s pent-up moralistic mother, turns All About Eve sadistic.

As her husband, Sarsgaard becomes a malevolent, domineering monster — all spittle and impotent fury. He beats Linda viciously, steals from her, forces her into a hotel gang rape. In one scene that is both terrifying and spastically campy, Chuck lifts a pistol, takes aim at a plastic Linda Lovelace blowup doll, and fires: It pops, and slides to the floor.

In moments like this, the film loses its grip on the tone. Even as the violence swells, the film can’t help but wallow in the seventies perms and disco tunes.

It’s a familiar back-lot story about the grit behind the glitz. Overall, the storytelling of the film, directed by Hollywood veterans Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman, is conventional from scene to scene — and it doesn’t really tell you anything you didn’t know about the 1970s porn business.

(It was predicated on the objectification and abuse of women? You don’t say…)

But the Weinsteins are clearly planning a fall release because they see awards potential in Seyfried’s full-throttle performance. She could have a shot. Seyfried gives everything she can in the role, disrobed and clothed: She’s free-love fabulous doing cartwheels on the beach in Linda’s early years, and palpably damaged in her latter, darker days.

It’s an unsettling, pitch-black narrative: When Deep Throat gave birth to a whole new wave of porn — mainstreaming porn that guys like Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s lunkhead can’t stop streaming — was Linda sacrificed for our sins? At Sundance, as in life, the goofy, ridiculous idea of porn sounds like a whole lot more fun than the real, depressing thing it most often turns out to be.

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