Biopic Film Review

Risqué Film Review: Lovelace

August 21, 2013Ben MK

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This biopic is anything but shallow

As far as names that have made it into the public lexicon go, Linda Lovelace is among the few that have gained particular notoriety -- first for her starring role in one of the adult film industry's most sensationalist pictures, and then for the 20 years she spent speaking out against spousal abuse. The film that bears her name takes an uncompromising, and at times unnerving, look at her life and attempts to reconcile how the same person can end up in these two very different roles.

Amanda Seyfried is transformed, as Linda Lovelace
Lovelace examines roughly ten years of Linda Lovelace's (Amanda Seyfried) life, beginning in 1970, two years before she would appear in the infamous Deep Throat. Before she was a household name, she was Linda Boreman, a naive 21-year-old and daughter of strict, traditionalist parents (Sharon Stone and Robert Patrick). An evening at the roller rink with her friend Patsy (Juno Temple) gives way to her fateful meeting with Chuck Traynor (Peter Sarsgaard), the man who would soon be her husband and physical/emotional tormentor. Her relationship with Traynor is the catalyst for her entry into prostitution and the adult film business, and it is what drives her subsequent struggle to escape the exploitation and abuse.

The filmmakers behind the movie, Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman, are no strangers to biopics. Having previously helmed Howl, the biopic of Allen Ginsberg, they use their bag of tricks to craft a raw and compelling film. Staying true to the time period, Lovelace has a very 1970's aesthetic, aided by the occasional soft-focus shot and the various reconstructions of her film and television appearances. The film is structured in an interesting way, progressing linearly at first, then doubling back and filling in the gaps in the narrative before pushing forward again. It's an effective method of storytelling, allowing for events to be exposed from different angles, dramatizing them for audiences who may already be familiar with the story without being exploitative.

Lovelace may be an ensemble picture, but it's Seyfried who steals the show. As the title character, she's mesmerizing in her tragic portrayal, delicately straddling the transition between victim and victor. Sarsgaard (whose recent turn as a convict in the third season of AMC's The Killing is but a hint of the creepiness he displays here) is equally good as the genuinely loathsome and misogynistic Traynor. And in their handful of scenes, Stone and Patrick manage to lend credible depth and emotion to their portrayal of Linda's parents, providing much needed context for the years of her life preceding the events of the film. The rest of the principle supporting cast, including Temple as her friend Patsy, Hank Azaria and Bobby Canavale as the director and producer of Deep Throat (who bring a bit of humor to the serious subject matter), and Chris Noth as its financier, also lend considerable heft their roles. There are also minor appearances by a who's who of Hollywood stars from past and present, including James Franco as Hugh Hefner, as well as Adam Brody, Chloe Sevigny, Wes Bentley, Eric Roberts and Debbi Mazar. Frankly, it can be slightly distracting at times to see recognizable faces in these small roles, but thankfully never to the point where it takes the audience out of the film.

The Bottom Line

Lovelace is a powerful story of innocence lost and a life regained. The film is raw without being gratuitous and avoids the trappings of a movie-of-the-week that can befall any biopic. It sheds light on events that not everyone familiar with the name might be aware of but, regardless of whether one is familiar with the story or not, the film remains engaging throughout. As it's available both in theaters and on-demand, there's really no excuse for adult audiences not to see it. [★★★★]

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