The Good: Acting, Interesting character struggle.
The Bad: Very predictable plot
The Basics: Pounding the independent film circuit at the end of Summer Blockbuster Season, Lovelace should be Amanda Seyfried and Peter Sarsgaard’s ticket to Oscar nominations.
As Summer Blockbuster Season winds down, with a particularly crowded release weekend, there are a number of independent films being released alongside the mainstream ones that are largely getting neglected. One of the most anticipated ones that is nevertheless being overlooked by mainstream audiences this weekend is Lovelace. Lovelace is a drama/biography starring Amanda Seyfried and for those who are only into the salacious, there is no need to read any further: Amanda Seyfried gets naked in Lovelace. For those looking for something more substantive, there is plenty more to read, but for the audience who just wants to see more of Amanda Seyfried, the bottomline is that yes, Lovelace lives up to the potential of its subject by showing off more of Amanda Seyfried than in her other films.
For those unfamiliar with her, Linda Lovelace was the star of the classic porn film Deep Throat. Apparently, she was the first breakout, mainstream porn actress to capture the imagination of viewers in Deep Throat. It is worth noting up front that I knew nothing about Linda Lovelace and have never actually seen Deep Throat, so this review is only on Lovelace, not how it recreates reality on screen. Lovelace is essentially this year’s Boogie Nights (reviewed here!) where the protagonist is female. Structured in plot very much like Boogie Nights, Lovelace features a woman who is pressured by her husband into entering the porn industry.
Before she was a mainstream porn breakout, Linda Lovelace was just a girl. Hanging out with her friend Patsy, Linda is something of a prude who is pressured by Patsy into go-go dancing at a local roller skating rink. There she catches the eye of Chuck, who starts hanging out with her and actually works to impress her parents. Linda confesses to Chuck that she had a baby whom she was forced to give up for adoption by her mother and shortly thereafter, Linda and Chuck move in together. At Chuck’s house, she is exposed to porn movies and after she bails him out of jail six months later, Chuck reveals what his real business is (he is essentially a pimp for a topless bar’s women).
After Linda bombs an audition for Chuck’s backers, Chuck plays a home video of Linda giving him a blowjob and that captures the attention of producers Butchie and Gerry. Linda is pushed into doing a porn movie,
While Lovelace is a predictably dark plot progression of a character in an industry that is unforgiving and punishing to women. As After Porn Ends (reviewed here!) adequately documented, porn and erotica do not have a huge regard for women and Lovelace illustrates that women in the industry are often manipulated and pushed farther than they might want to go. As well, the aging porn star Dolly illustrates that the industry does not prepare women in the biz for other vocations, but the ones who are best prepared for life after porn are those who take on other vocations (Dolly is a make-up artist).
As these stories frequently go – in reality and in virtually every fiction about them - Lovelace starts as the story of a person with a singular talent filling a niche in the industry and quickly turns into a story of abuse, drugs and personal horror. What separates Lovelace from many other films, like What’s Love Got To Do With It? is a lack of pretense, a focus on overcoming, and some pretty amazing performances.
The lack of pretense manifests itself instantly in the form of Chuck. Chuck is a dirtbag and the moment he first arrives on screen, the viewer knows he is bad news for Linda. We see his arc coming a mile away. Lovelace does not try to shield or confuse the viewer. Instead, Chuck is a dirtbag, but Linda is not an innocent. Linda is not at all thrilled by all of Chuck’s mannerisms, but she goes along with him and is beaten by him long before he pushes her into porn. Lovelace is smart enough to leave some ambiguity; do the producers send Chuck away the day Linda is going down on co-star Harry Reems because he will inhibit her performance or because she is more likely to be easily manipulated without him looking out for his “investment?”
The seduction and calamity of Lovelace happens at a roller coaster speed, which leaves a significant chunk of the film exploring how Linda deals with her celebrity and overcomes the negative influences of Chuck. While the movie never quite gets into “inspirational” territory, it smartly does not sink so low as to be unwatchable or continually oppressive. The focus on Linda overcoming Chuck and their shared poverty and problems keeps Lovelace watchable.
The acting in Lovelace is so good it is hard to believe this film is not breaking out in mainstream theaters. With a supporting cast that includes Chris Noth, Wes Bentley, Hank Azaria, Sharon Stone, and Robert Patrick, Lovelace is an incredible presentation of talent in every frame. Amanda Seyfried is perfectly cast as Linda Lovelace. If for no other reason than Seyfried is able to perfectly embody both innocent and sultry, she seems like the ideal choice for Linda Lovelace and she sells the life story of the actress as compelling and engaging.
It was Peter Sarsgaard who rocked Lovelace for me, though. Sarsgaard has none of the creepiness of his villain from Green Lantern (reviewed here!) in his portrayal of Chuck. As a result, he is able to play Chuck first with credible charisma and then as a manipulative bastard who rules all of Linda’s life. The key to such a role is in making the character seem like one the woman would initially be drawn to and he manages to do that. The layered performance of Peter Sarsgaard and the on-screen chemistry he shares with Seyfried make it seem like a no-brainer that a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination is in his future.
Despite its tone and subject matter, Lovelace is a very accessible film that becomes one of August’s few “must watch” movies!
For other works with Amanda Seyfried, please check out my reviews of:
The Big Wedding
A Bag Of Hammers
Red Riding Hood
Letters To Juliet
Veronica Mars - Season One
For other film reviews, please check out my Movie Review Index Page for an organized listing!
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