Review: ‘Lovelace’ Biopic Tackles Dangerous Side of Porn Industry

By August 9, 2013
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In 1972, the famed porn flick Deep Throat took the country by storm and turned the film’s star Linda Lovelace (born Linda Boreman) into a household name. Despite its adult content, it managed to lure mainstream audiences and earn a whopping $600 million. This was due, in large part, to the film’s irresistible humor.

From the outside looking in, the story is an appealing tale of how a low budget porno became a sensation.

Lovelace initially shows the production and release of Deep Throat through a light-hearted narrative. We see Linda (Amanda Seyfried) escape the clutches of her frighteningly overbearing mother (an unrecognizable Sharon Stone) and marry the charismatic Chuck Traynor (Peter Sarsgaard). Later, she seemingly consents to starring in Deep Throat to help both of them out financially.

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We watch the development of Deep Throat unfold as director Gerry Damiano (Hank Azaria), porn actor Harry Styles (Adam Brody), and mob-backed producers Butchie Peraino (Bobby Canivale) and Anthony Romano (Chris Noth) are hilariously enraptured by Linda’s…skills.

Despite his manic impulsiveness, Chuck is supportive and charming. He’s by Linda’s side through much of the filming and when production wraps, they can be heard “celebrating” in their hotel room.

Audiences line up around the block to see the film and late night talk show hosts can’t stop talking about it. Linda receives thunderous applause when she takes the stage following special screenings and mingles with the likes of Playboy founder Hugh Hefner (James Franco).

But this facade shatters in the film’s second half.

As it turns out, Linda is being raped, abused, and threatened by Chuck – who not only forced her to do porn at gunpoint but has been pimping her out so that he can support his drug habit. Several scenes play out again, but this time they’re shown from Linda’s perspective; when everyone thought the couple was engaging in a celebratory tryst after Deep Throat finished filming, for example, we discover Chuck was actually violently slamming Linda into the wall. It’s amazing what a little perspective shift can do.

The fact that Chuck doesn’t seem too threatening during the film’s initial sequences but is later frightening is a testament to Sarsgaard’s strength as an actor. Seyfried is similarly talented when it comes to the duality of her character, effectively conveying both a glowing adult film darling and a vulnerable battered woman.

Directed by Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman, Lovelace offers a portrait of a time when many women felt it was their duty to “obey their husbands.” The film heartbreakingly captures why Linda doesn’t just leave Chuck, but rather endures his torment.

In real life, Linda chronicled her years of anguish at the hands of Chuck in her harrowing book “Ordeal.” In it, she describes being married to him as being a prisoner in Alcatraz. She also reveals that he repeatedly threatened her with a .45 automatic causing her to have nightmares about being shot for years.

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Linda subsequently became an advocate for abused women and publicly called attention to the dangerous misogyny that dominates the porn industry. During the 1986 Commission on Pornography, she famously said, “When you see the movie Deep Throat, you are watching me being raped.”  She also made it known that she earned just over $1000 for the box office smash.

The main flaw of Lovelace is that it’s unapologetically campy, and one could argue that takes away from its authenticity. Furthermore, it fails to acknowledge that Linda was heavily addicted to drugs at the time. That aspect of her story would have been worth touching on, but as it is, the film is a decently well-rounded portrayal of a broken woman who became a cultural talking point for her very particular set of skills.

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Justine Browning
Justine is a film and culture reporter whose work has appeared in USA Today, Indie Wire and The Huffington Post. She currently serves as an on-camera correspondent for MovieWeb and Cine Movie TV.