All I knew about the eponymous protagonist of this story before sitting down to watch Lovelace was exactly that, her name. The phrases ‘Linda Lovelace’ and ‘Deepthroat‘ were, for me, stored in that part of the brain that holds information that is encountered years before you are old enough to really understand what it is or what it means. As far as I was aware, Linda Lovelace was a prolific porn actress of the seventies and star of one of the highest grossing pornographic feature films of all time. As I came to learn over the course of the next ninety three minutes, only half of my assumption was true.
The film races ambitiously through twelve years of Linda’s life, beginning with her first acquaintance with future husband and manager Chuck Traynor, through her ‘glory days’ and peak Deepthroat fame, and culminating in her return to normalcy and search for cultural redemption. The hour and a half running time is very cleverly separated down the middle in to two halves. Firstly the audience are shown the events leading up to and including her climactic cinematic glory in a fairly upbeat and almost romantic light. Linda and Chuck fall in love, marry, agree to partake in the porn industry, and seemingly reap the rewards with glamorous trips to the Play Boy mansion and adoration from the right social circles. This version of events is clearly meant to represent the perception of Linda Lovelace that the public would have had at the time, and it is counter balanced by the second forty minutes or so in which we are shown the truth. This latter half of the film recaps what we have already seen and guides us towards the final resolution, but this time every aspect of Chuck’s abuse of Linda, mental, physical, sexual, and psychological is exposed. We come to realise that every single decision made concerning Lovelace’s career was made and maintained by her overbearing and overpowering husband, and the film very quickly turns from a pleasantly sleazy docudrama into a story of struggle, survival and salvation.
In what turned out to be a stroke of casting genius, Amanda Seyfried portrays Lovelace. I had initial reservations about this, failing to imagination how such a fresh faced young woman would be able to channel such a range of raw emotion and desperation. Turns out I needn’t have worried. Seyfried possessed enough innocence and sex appeal to be both a believable adult film star and eventual reformed housewife. Her steel and determination yet utter helplessness at the hands of her husband were a fantastic mixture to witness and she truly does hold the film together with her performance. Speaking of husband, Peter Sarsgaard does an excellent job of portraying Chuck Traynor, the kind of abusive character that is far too prevalent both in reality and in fiction, the man of your dreams who turns out to be the exact opposite. These two central characters are aided by a solid cast of supporting turns including Chris Noth, Adam Brody and a typically squinty eyed James Franco as Hugh Hefner. Special mention for the almost unrecognisable Sharon Stone, who as Linda’s unforgiving mother Dorothy, gives a strong performance for which the audience both hate and eventually love her.
Overall, I can’t say that Lovelace is an enjoyable film to watch. That does not mean, however, that it is bad. It is well made, well acted and extremely interesting, but the subject matter of abuse and several scenes portraying it make the picture, at times, uncomfortable to witness. I am glad, though, to have been educated on the real Linda Lovelace. Not, as I thought, a ‘prolific’ porn star, but someone who spent exactly seventeen days in the pornography industry and should perhaps be better remembered for her bravery in removing herself from an extremely abusive marriage and cultural environment that she never wished to inhabit.