Fine performances and sharp attention to period detail are not enough to save Lovelace from the doldrums of mediocre biopic filmmaking.
The life of Linda Lovelace (real name Linda Boreman) was indeed a tumultuous one: raised a good Catholic girl by her blue-collar parents only to have a baby out of wedlock at 19; married to the abusive Chuck Traynor at 21 who forced into the porn industry where she became the first porn-star with Deep Throat; an anti-porn crusader in her thirties…it’s the stuff of a great biopic.
Yet under the watch of Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman, a great biopic Lovelace certainly is not.
Lauded for their popular documentary work based around the gay experience in America (notably The Times of Harvey Milk and The Celluloid Closet), Epstein and Friedman bring that much needed authentic touch with a soundtrack of 70s hits and great hair/make-up/costumes (all shot on grainy Super 16 film) taking us back to the bad ol’ days of Nixon, Vietnam and of course Deep Throat.
Epstein’s and Friedman’s talents as dramatists, however leaves much to be desired. Love it or hate it, Deep Throat brought about the pornification of America upon Lovelace’s bloodied and bruised back. Lovelace’s story is an American tragedy, disguised as an American dream, that led America onto a collision course with its smut-empire underbelly. Epstein and Friedman just do not convey the personal or cultural weight of those events.
It’s not without lack of trying from its cast. As Linda Lovelace, Amanda Seyfried delivers career best work bearing all physically and emotionally, rising up to the demanding sex scenes that while not exploitative, are rather explicit.
Peter Sarsgaard has officially cornered the market for seedy and dangerous loose cannons with his Chuck Traynor a truly despicable man (complete with porn star meets biker ‘tache), and the one-two punch of Hank Azaria and Bobby Cannavale hold the crown for scene stealers of the year as low level porno producers.
Most impressive of all is a barely recognisable Sharon Stone, who plays Lovelace’s ultra-disciplinarian mother with a perfectly balanced shrewd self-righteousness, yet also portrays a tortured confliction in her tough-love approach towards her troubled daughter.
It’s the kind of performance that should be hyped for awards glory, yet it’s hard to see that happening with a film of this middle-brow quality, Lovelace a potentially good film wasted by poor storytelling.