“Lovelace,” Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman’s portrait of the personal life of “Deep Throat” porn star Linda Lovelace (Amanda Seyfried), isn’t impressing the critics. While the occasional review finds Seyfried and co-star Peter Sarsgaard’s performances to be engaging, most deem the actors’ talents squandered in an oddly tame film that’s “movie-of-the-week melodrama.” Roundup below.
“Lovelace” was recently picked up by RADiUS-TWC.
As entertainment, it works fine, never straying too far into Boogie Nights territory (although the music cues make it inevitable) and finding a sympathetic lead in Amanda Seyfried, who captures much of the real Lovelace’s artless appeal. Equally good is Peter Sarsgaard, playing the full range of Traynor’s spectrum, from sensitive lover to sex pest to wife beater.
Despite its smutty subject matter, “Lovelace” is an extremely old-fashioned piece of filmmaking — even Bob Fosse’s “Star 80,” similarly themed and made three decades ago, seems more adventurous in comparison. The movie follows the usual pattern of rise, fall and redemption — complete with a black and white picture of real-life Lovelace in the final frame, positioning the whole thing as a tribute of sorts. Its main character’s transformation from a “paragon of sexual revolution” to an anti-porn activist is barely touched upon: we don’t see the change itself, only its results in the last five minutes, slapped on as a fig leaf.
Beyond its pointless structural trickery, “Lovelace” suffers from lame dialogue that provides a cheap shortcut to emphasizing the nastiness of Linda’s world. (Chuck: “How ’bout the next time I want your opinion, I’ll ask you what my cock tastes like?”) The performances run along the same lines. Seyfriend tries valiantly to make her character into a figure of sympathy, but Sarsgaard delivers little more than a one-note monster, while various bit parts distract from the plot by laying bare its gimmickry (James Franco as a dapper Hugh Hefner! Wes Bentley as her first photographer! Chole Sevigny as…a random journalist!).
The late star of “Deep Throat,” Linda Lovelace, titled her 1980 autobiography “Ordeal,” but, for the most part, “Lovelace” goes down smooth. Reducing an immensely disturbing, politically byzantine tale to a series of cartoonish vignettes, this celeb-studded biopic squanders a gutsy performance by Amanda Seyfried while making ’70s porn look scarcely more sleazy than a movie-of-the-week melodrama from the period. Co-directors Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman forsake the truth-telling spirit of their past work in documentary, relying on jumbled chronology and long ellipses to smooth over the Lovelace saga’s many rough edges.