Directors: Rob Epstein, Jeffery Friedman
Cast: Amanda Seyfried, Peter Sarsgaard, Sharon Stone
Running time: 92 minutes
Release: August 23
Linda Boerman (a.k.a Linda Lovelace) was an interesting and complex character, worthy of the many documentaries, books and now a feature length film made about her. Unfortunately, you wouldn’t get that impression from this latest re-telling of her life story.
Truth is often stranger than fiction and Linda’s real life story reads like the plot of a melodrama, without the happy ending (so to speak). Raised in The Bronx with strict Catholic parents, she was a timid school girl nick named ‘Miss Holy Holy’ due to her prudish nature. At the age of 21, she met Chuck Traynor and made the spectacularly awful decision to marry him. He quickly turned from a physically abusive partner into her pimp, coercing Linda into prostitution and then pornography. Frigid, convent school girl to hard-core adult movie star already sounds like the plot of a porn movie, yet this just the tip of the iceberg in Linda’s life story.
The rest, as they say, is history. Deep Throat is still the most successful pornographic movie of all the time, propelling Lovelace into international stardom.
It seems incredulous that a woman could become a global celebrity solely based on her ability to perform a single sex act. Perhaps this is the reason for the modern celebrity trend of “accidentally” releasing sex tapes; Linda’s story demonstrates how quickly being seen as a sexual deviant can propel you into super stardom.
Yet, this is not the most interesting part of the real Linda’s story. After Deep Throat, she released two pro-porn books in which she made statements like “I live for sex”. Fast forward five years to 1980 and she releases a third autobiography entitled Ordeal, in which she claims she never willingly participated in any pornography, but was forced to by threats of violence by Traynor. So, the $64,000 question, which is also posed in the opening scene of the movie: Who is the real Linda Lovelace? The answer: I am none the wiser after watching this movie.
With such an interesting life story, one of the disappointing aspects of Lovelace is that it only deals with her life up to and including Deep Throat. The opening shots are all sun-drenched wonder-years of hippie era America. Amanda Seyfried’s brings her trade-mark innocence to the portrayal of Linda Lovelace. Her acting style seems to be based on a constant wide-eyed naivety, as she smiles vacantly at her sleazy husband Chuck Traynor (Peter Sarsgaard). It seems to push the bounds of plausibility that someone could be so malleable; a conversation about money problems in a café is quickly followed by Linda’s first audition for a porn film, seemingly without any protest from her in the interim. Up to the half way point of this relatively short film, the audience has only ever seen a compliant, smiling Linda who has seems to have willingly performed in pornography and enjoyed the following celebrity status.
But wait, the film-makers have tricked you! Half way through, they double back to the beginning of the story to fill in the blanks. Ah-ha, they say, look! She was in fact being beaten and forced into doing all these nasty things all along! If this was meant to be a big reveal, then it fails. Anyone watching the story would already presume that there is something awry in Linda and Chuck’s relationship; it’s not exactly typical for a man to be leasing out his wife for porn. Leaving it to half way through the plot to fill in all the nasty details feels disruptive and unnecessary. If your waiting for the eventual Gloria Gaynor “I Will Survive” victim redemption moment (as I was), you’ll be disappointed.
Seyfried’s acting lacks the subtly needed to make you relate to Lovelace as anything but a victim. Linda’s own retrospective on life in porn is the real interesting part of this story, yet is only given a five minute tag-on at the end. Linda Lovelace, infamous porn star turned virulent anti-porn protester makes a more compelling character than Linda Lovelace, hapless victim.