Friday, August 9, 2013

Lovelace Movie Review

Peter Sarsgaard & Amanda Seyfried (r) in Lovelace

A Poor Woman's Version of Boogie Nights

'Who's the real Linda Lovelace?' That's the question posed by co-directors Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman in Lovelace, yet another biopic based upon Linda Boreman, the porn star of Deep Throat fame back in the early 70's. It's hard to tell if this version tells the whole truth (Boreman's story was rife with contradiction and controversy) but one thing's for sure... porn sucks (pun intended; sorry folks, I couldn't resist.)

IMDb Plot: The story of Linda Lovelace, who is used and abused by the porn industry at the behest of her coercive husband, before taking control of her life.

What’s Best: The first half (pre-What's Love Got to Do With It?) is actually pretty good, as Linda (Amanda Seyfried) makes her plunge into the porn industry. Her audition is priceless, as Hank Azaria and Bobby Cannavale (as director and producer respectively) politely dismiss her, 'It's like making a war movie without the fighting,' and 'Can she type?' before changing their tune after seeing her in action, 'Can she do that with a big cock?' A star is born.

Seyfried does a credible job as the battered, reluctant star; while Peter Sarsgaard scores as hubby/manager/pimp Chuck Traynor. Look for scene stealers Eric Roberts (as a lie detector!) Adam Brody ('We're getting it on in the next scene') and an almost unrecognizable Sharon Stone as Linda's tough-as-nails mother. There's plenty of good acting to go around... Unfortunately, most of it gets lost amidst the film's exploitative downer of a second half.

What’s Not: It's obvious that Lovelace aspires to shine in the same light as Paul Thomas Anderson's far superior Boogie Nights; but it fails to reproduce the charm and comedic brilliance of its "big brother," focusing instead on the negative, often brutal aspects of this type of life. This is especially evident in the film's most disturbing scene, where Chuck sells his wife for what amounts to a sanctioned gang rape. Worse yet, the perverted direction lets the scene linger long enough to watch the scum unbuckle their belts, etc. while Lovelace waits in horror on a bed. I got the feeling that Epstein and Friedman would like to keep the cameras rolling. Creepy.

Best Line: Despite Lovelace's numerous faults, there's no denying the abundance of great writing (Andy Bellin.) James Franco cameos as Hugh Hefner, and steals Linda (and the movie) with, 'How 'bout I trade you two blondes for a brunette?' On the racier side, Chuck's 'It's America man. Why wouldn't I want my name on the side of a dildo?' shows the sleazier side of Capitalism. But top honors go to Seyfried's Linda for explaining how she got duped into signing an unfavorable document, 'He told me I was signing circumcision papers.' It's almost worth sitting through the last hour, just to get at some of these golden lines.

Overall: Chris Noth as a surprisingly sympathetic porn producer observes, 'You see that? That's going to be a problem,' referring to Mr. Lovelace. He wasn't kidding. Chuck's sheer domination of Linda overwhelms the movie at times, watering down a number of excellent performances in the process. Worth seeing for the more uplifting (is that even possible?) first half, and some terrific writing. Me? I'll stick with Boogie Nights.