Our reviewer has less than lovely things to say about the film Lovelace.
Linda Lovelace, despite only appearing in a handful of films, was one of the most famous porn actresses of all time. Her starring role in the film Deep Throat, where the plot revolves around a woman whose clitoris is found to be in her throat, shot her to stratospheric levels of fame and kick-started the ‘Golden Age of Porn.’ Behind the scenes though, Linda Boreman (her real name) revealed that her life had been an unending torment of abuse, rape and forced prostitution, all of which was exacted by her husband, Chuck Traynor.
The first half of the film (stylistically very similar to the excellent Boogie Nights) has what one may see as a typical rise-to-fame narrative. Boreman (played by Amanda Seyfried) is a young woman with a domineering mother and passive father. She meets Chuck Traynor (Peter Sarsgaard) whilst go-go dancing. They marry quickly, move to New York, and she unwittingly auditions for what turns out to be the highest grossing, most highly regarded porn film in history. She is shot to the top of celebrity superstardom. This scene concludes with Lovelace being unveiled at a gala screening of her film, seemingly happy and fulfilled.
The reality was really quite different.
The film then fast-forwards six years, to Boreman taking a polygraph test. She has written a memoir about her life, which pushed some extremely serious charges and the publishers wanted to ensure that it is all true.
A review of Lovelace is difficult; you have to review the film as a piece on its own, but you also have to review its adherence to the history of Linda Boreman’s life.
As a film by itself, it is a decent watch. Seyfried, who will forever be remembered as the nice-but-dim Karen Smith from Mean Girls (2004) is at her best in this role. Peter Sarsgaard is suitably loathsome as her husband, Chuck Traynor. The film has a very 70s inflected look, and for people who are initially unaware of the true story behind Linda Lovelace, the trick of retelling the story halfway through may prove effective. However, if you know the story of Linda Lovelace going into the film, I don’t feel there is anything to be gained from it.
After the publication of her memoir, Ordeal, Boreman became, perhaps unwittingly, a spokesperson for the anti-porn movement that was popular at the time. The film appears to take the narrative stance that the porn industry was directly responsible for much of the abuse that Boreman suffered. In reality, if Boreman’s memoir is to be believed, the porn industry was actually responsible for taking her out of the abusive relationship she endured. It omits the fact that she had made porn films before Deep Throat, including a film revolving around bestiality. It omits too much detail, or worse, edits it, to be seen as a credible biopic. I do not usually crave rigid adherence to fact when it comes to historical drama, but with a subject this sensitive, I feel it is necessary.
The fact is, the Linda Lovelace story is complex and cannot fit the traditional cinematic narrative this film tries to give it. Some would argue that this is necessary to make it more palatable (if such a story can be made so) for mainstream audiences. This may be true, as some of the things would be impossible to show, but in doing so, it may have done a disservice to the true story.
Perhaps, ironically, the story of the biggest adult film star is something that can never be committed to film.