Lovelace (Dirs. Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman, 2013)

 

Seen today, at Bristol Watershed.

Its pretty safe to assume that most people have heard the name Linda Lovelace…even if they’ve never seen the skin flick classic Deep Throat. In 1972, Lovelace became the first pornographic superstar, with the film becoming a success and making over $600 million dollars. Her fresh faced girl next door looks were a selling point in a world of plastic blondes. Lovelace found herself thrust to the forefront of the 70s Sexual Revolution – although many feminists argued she was a pawn peddling a mysogynistic fantasy. Lovelace is a brutal and grimily compelling look at her life. And unlike previous films about porn, this isn’t a day glo fantasy of wacky eccentrics and lustful women. This is dark, sleazy, and disturbing.

Linda Boreman (Amanda Seyfried) is a 21 year old living with her Catholic, working class parents, and craving excitement. She finds it in the form of the older, somewhat mysterious Chuck Traynor (Peter Saarsgard). After leaving home, her life suddenly starts taking on a new dimension. Taken to an audition, Boreman finds herself thrust into the world of porn, leading to the shooting of Deep Throat. Hailed as a celebrity, she parties with Hugh Hefner (James Franco) and makes money…

…Except we then flip back to the beginning. On her wedding night, Traynor beats her up. At a club, he pimps her out to a travelling salesman. And as for the audition – she has no idea what she’s doing. And when she protests, Traynor – a violent coke head and part time pimp – beats her. One of the most disturbing scenes is the wrap party – the producers are next door, hearing thumping sounds. They assume the couple are having sex. They’re not – Traynor is repeatedly throwing Lovelace into a wall.

The film is beautifully made. The eye burning colours of the early 70s are present and correct, and the film also shows the making of Deep Throat. It gets it pitch perfect – the wooden acting, banal dialogue, and glossy production. Its worth remembering that Throat was popular due to its attempts to incorporate character and humour into what were previously just shots of people fucking. And the performances are excellent. Chris Noth is a fatherly producer. James Franco is typically eccentric as Hefner. Robert Patrick and Sharon Stone are subtle as Lovelace’s worried and estranged parents. But the real powerhouse is Saarsgard, whose Traynor, a thug motivated by greed, is disturbing and shocking. Seyfried conveys both naivety and despair. And if you’ve never seen Deep Throat, you really won’t want to watch it after this. The film also nukes some commonly held social myths about the early 70s. The perception that women were liberated is scotch – Lovelace is told by her mother, in one painful scene, that a husband is “to obey.” Liberated woman or sex slave? Hmmm.

Highly recommended.

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