Every summer theater screens show a multitude of huge studio tentpoles which make a splash with their effects, their epic superhero versus alien versus other superhero battles, and of course, giant robots. And listen, I’m a mighty big fan of robots, probably more than you’d think. But this summer’s big action flicks, one of which, Pacific Rim, featured said robot carnage, have left me feeling empty. I have lots of theories on this, one of which involves a weird conspiracy on behalf of studios to limit ladies in movies to no more than three speaking lines. But regardless of why, I have to say that my favorite movies of the summer have been the smaller, less flashy, markedly robot free vehicles. One of these, is Lovelace.
Amanda Seyfried plays Linda Lovelace, the real life face of what became the mainstream porn industry. Born Linda Boreman, the film depicts her transformation from girl next door to femme porn icon. Seyfried’s performance is terrific, vanity-free and incredibly compelling. Through her portrayal, we see the hope Linda had for fame and fortune and how that hope was used and abused by her husband, Chuck Traynor (played with palpable, persistent rage by Peter Sarsgaard). Seyfried, fairly disguised in brown contacts and wig, imbues the character with a healthy does of little girl lost. You genuinely empathize with her plight and wish she could save herself.
The rest of the cast is rounded out by an impressive troupe of stars. Sharon Stone is wholly unrecognizable in her role and portrays Linda’s mother as a tough old broad that, when she turns away Linda in her times of need, you get the sense that her world-weariness belies a tough life not too terribly different from that of her prodigal daughter’s. Chris Noth smokes a stogie with his requisite cool but lends an extra edge to the scenes requiring him to get his hands dirty smashing various skulls. James Franco briefly breezes in as a young Hugh Heffner, as well, which was fun.
Lovelace is a mixed bag overall and by no means a perfect film. This is a rich subject and time period and I know much more could have been mined from not only Linda’s life but also the porn world in the 70’s (or maybe that movie already exists and was called Boogie Nights…). We certainly get a window into that environment and the misogyny that exemplified it, but the view is obscured and fleeting. The movie feels more than anything, oddly breezy. The dramatic events succeeding Deep Throat’s wild popularity don’t even figure in the film’s drama–Linda’s costar, played in Lovelace by a mustachioed Adam Brody, actually did jail time for participating in Deep Throat.
Vignettes which show the same scene from different angles–one in which Linda is an active, avid (albeit doe-eyed) participant and one in which she’s the victim of systematic emotional and physical abuse–are not wholly successful and feel mildly clunky. The seedy ambiance of the 70’s is captured fairly well however, and shots around LA capture the physical landscape authentically.
Lovelace is at the very least a story about a woman used by men. A woman who has been told from a young age to listen to her husband and be obedient no matter how much he beats you or belittles you. A woman who, the movie seems to suggest, learned through her pain and shame to recreate herself to. First, by owning her persona as a woman unafraid to be sexually free and open. Then, when that way lead to ignominy, decried her whole past experience as essentially slavery impressed on her by controlling men. Though the second path allows her to reconnect with her estranged parents, and appears to bring about a happy ending for Linda, I was saddened by the suggestion that the only happy ending for Linda had to be bought by subjugating any and all inkling that Linda enjoyed sex or was sexually free spirited. That the double standard for women is so powerful. And even if, in this way, Linda didn’t, actually, save herself, the movie Lovelace still successfully features compelling female characters that say a hell of a lot more than 3 lines. Now if only we could have fit some giant robots in there the movie would have been perfect.
Lovelace is in theaters now. Check out the official website: http://www.thelovelacemovie.com/
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