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I don’t suppose any biopic of 1970s porn star Linda Lovelace
could be definitive–there were too many facets to her life, before and after
she achieved worldwide notoriety for her “performance” in Deep Throat—but Lovelace makes a good
stab. Amanda Seyfried delivers a fearless and sympathetic portrayal of the
young woman who is led into very dark places by a smooth-talking hustler named
Chuck Traynor (Peter Sarsgaard). Her unusual prowess at fellatio becomes her
stepping stone to fame, propelling Deep
to unprecedented success
at a time when pornographic films were still screened in movie theaters and the
Internet was not yet on the horizon.

Screenwriter Andy Bellin and directors Rob Epstein and
Jeffrey Friedman (better known for
their award-winning documentaries) employ an unusual structure, beginning their
film with an audio montage of provocative lines we’ll hear again as the story
unfolds, then showing how Linda and Chuck began their turbulent journey
together. At the midway point they retell the same story, taking the gloves off
to reveal the sordid story behind the scenes of Traynor’s abuse and
exploitation of Linda, and her almost unbearable suffering. Her strict,
old-school parents (Robert Patrick and a deglamorized Sharon Stone) offer
little comfort and no shelter at the one point Linda attempts to get away from
her tormentor.

The 1970s recreation is remarkably good, from costuming and
often-hilarious hairstyles (especially on the men) to the details of shooting a
porno film—on film. The storytelling also benefits from Stephen Trask’s subtly
effective score.

Supporting roles are expertly filled by such talented actors
as Hank Azaria, Chris Noth, Bobby Cannavale, and Adam Brody, with a brief
appearance by Eric Roberts as a reminder of a not-dissimilar story, Star 80.

I’ve already read complaints that the film doesn’t tell
enough of the Deep Throat backstory
(which is well covered in the documentary Inside
Deep Throat
), or that we don’t learn enough about Lovelace’s youth, later
problems, and outspoken campaign against pornography and sexual abuse. I didn’t
feel cheated by any of that, because the movie sets its parameters and meets
its goals quite well; some details are provided in the closing titles.

Lovelace seems reasonable
and credible, for the most part. (I didn’t really buy James Franco in his cameo
as Hugh Hefner.) Seyfried, Sarsgaard and company bring their unhappy characters
to life and leave us with something to think about. That’s as much as I could
ask of any biopic.


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