21st Aug2013

‘Lovelace’ Review

by Ian Loring

Stars: Amanda Seyfried, Peter Sarsgaard, Juno Temple, Sharon Stone, Robert Patrick, Chris Noth, Bobby Cannavale, Hank Azaria, Adam Brody, Chloë Sevigny, James Franco, Debi Mazar, Wes Bentley, Eric Roberts, Ron Pritchard | Written by Andy Bellin | Directed by Rob Epstein, Jeffrey Friedman

Lovelace-Amanda

Another example of Hollywood trying to develop two similar projects at the same time, Lovelace beats rival biopic Inferno to the big screen. A document of the rise to fame of fledgling porn star Linda Lovelace and the abuse suffered by her at the hands of husband Chuck Traynor, Lovelace is a fairly stock biopic illuminated by its case and a somewhat surface level increase in interest due to its narrative structure.

Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman’s film is one of two halves, mixing the usual template of a biopic up by offering two different perspectives, a slightly more “Hollywood” version of events where Linda and Chuck have a romance, financial difficulties but find success through her particular set of skills and only in the margins is there the suggestion that things are darker between them. This section is shot brightly, filled with fun supporting characters and is enjoyable to watch. While you know things will eventually take a turn, much like the somewhat similar in tone and theme Boogie Nights, you’re having quite a bit of fun which masks this. Sarsgard and Seyfried have terrific chemistry in this section, he’s a charming and very masuline presence which is obviously alluring though he’s not a white knight in this section either. Seyfried plays up to her slightly more usual Barbie girl nature in this section also and with Juno Temple playing her best friend it’s light and frothy.

The second half of the film is a different beast entirely. While flinching from showing the rather more vile sexual impulses of Traynor, though an asphyxiation sequence at the start of this section is an effective and deliberate shock to the sequence, the film does fully submerge itself in the seedier side of the world. Linda is miserable virtually all the time either outwardly breaking down or finding herself mentally trapped, unable to get help from those around her or the authorities, a depiction of a world a million miles away from the kind of behaviour that would even be slightly tolerated today.

It is a shame though that the events play out pretty much as conventionally as you expect. Lovelace’s time as a campaigner against domestic violence is essentially dealt with in a title card but this aspect is one of the more interesting aspects of this particular tale, a woman who had to re-invent herself for people to take her seriously about things any woman has a right to be listened to about, whatever her occupation. While the Lovelace/Traynor dynamic is effective and upsetting, the setting of the drama aside, there doesn’t feel like there’s anything to cinematically vital about the proceedings, despite the strong central performances, Seyfried taking on the abused woman mantle decently and Sarsgard completely wallowing in the desperation of a man who feels like he should have more power and increasingly focuses the little he has on terrorising the woman he’s married to.

Lovelace is certainly a film worth watching and taking seriously. Not the light, breezy and vivacious film which it’s been somewhat been advertised as, instead a troubling account of a woman in trouble which could have, and probably should have given the talent, been more.

***½ 3.5/5

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