Lovelace Review

Perhaps the most disappointing aspect of Lovelace is that it's not a terribly interesting film. Its directors' previous effort Howl, about the famous poem by Allen Ginsberg, was a mixed bag but at least it had something for the viewer to absorb. Lovelace denies us the opportunity to develop a perspective. It spends the first half introducing a fairly prominent figure in cinema history and the second heavily painting her as a victim. Regardless of accuracy, the single-sided reduction eliminates the complexity that exists even in something as basic as reading a Wikipedia entry. Here we have a naive heroine and a couple of villains. How dreadfully boring, blowjobs or not.

Filmmakers Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman have a rich history of bringing socially-tinged history to the screen in everything from documentaries like The Celluloid Closet and Epstein's masterful The Times of Harvey Milk to their initial foray into fiction with Howl. The story of Linda Boreman (a.k.a. Linda Lovelace) would seem to have the potential for similar exploration given how she went from a complete unknown to the star of a massively popular, groundbreaking adult film before completely denouncing her involvement and the entire industry, going so far as to characterize her performance in Deep Throat as the product of being raped. But any bigger picture issues are ignored here, with the source of the turmoil being shared by her mother (played by Sharon Stone, who's distracting at best) and her husband Chuck Traynor (Peter Sarsgaard). Linda's story is self-contained and never submitted as any kind of example of a larger problem.

As Linda, Amanda Seyfried is actually very good. She does well at projecting the innocence and weakness built into the character but the slight turn that's made around midway through the picture is where Seyfried most impresses. Linda becomes more of a knowing participant, compelled by a combination of her mother's coldly oblivious instruction and Chuck's violent threats. Seyfried molds her into a sadder figure who feels helpless to these demons yet tries to make the most of her situation when she can. As such, she gives off a sense of starstruck wonder upon watching Deep Throat with Hugh Hefner (who's played, improbably and predictably at the same time, by James Franco) but ably registers the kind of sheer terror one might expect upon being prostituted into a gang rape by her husband.

The remainder of the cast comes across in a spot-a-star frenzy of recognizable faces which include Adam Brody as Harry Reems and Hank Azaria playing Deep Throat director Gerard Damiano. Whether these actors all were attempting favors or looking for enhanced credibility, the result is often more distraction than anything. It's really not as though much registers performance-wise here. The principals too often lack dimension, and even Seyfried as Boreman struggles to attain any kind of clearly defining depth ripe for exploration. What first appears as a standard, bullet-pointed biopic hitting the highlights and breezily using pop music to mask its shallowness takes a dark turn into nonetheless insufficiently dull territory. Any whys are totally ignored in favor of just simply pulling back the apparent surface to reveal the underlying ugliness, absent context.

The best single scene in the picture occurs when Linda is at a photo shoot after the Deep Throat production. The photographer, played by Wes Bentley, sees she is very reserved and uptight, stiff even. He encourages her to talk about the film and she does, with great enthusiasm. This provides a great deal of insight into who this woman is supposed to be, even if it somewhat conflicts with later events and/or reality. She's emboldened by her sexuality and she has stars in her eyes. If this is the real Linda we're supposed to be taken with, it actually makes sense. If she's totally being coerced against her will into the whole thing then some inconsistencies are popping up during this encounter. Regardless, from a dramatic angle, the scene works because it provides motivation. And, for once, it presents someone whose actions and thoughts are interesting.


The Disc

New releases apparently do still come out simultaneously in DVD and Blu-ray editions. My review copy provided here is the U.S. DVD distributed by Anchor Bay. It's dual-layered and NTSC.

Image quality will look a bit strange to those expecting the usual crispness of digital. It was shot in Super 16 mm, in an effort to replicate the time period in which the picture is set (and probably as some kind of homage to Deep Throat). As a result, things tend to look very grainy, and this is particularly noticeable in nighttime or interior scenes which are less brightly lit. The original 1.85:1 aspect ratio is respected for this release, and it has been enhanced for widescreen televisions. No instances of damage or other glaring defects were detected.

Audio registers without incident via an English Dolby Digital 5.1 stereo track. Dialogue and the seventies-era soundtrack come through cleanly. Subtitles are provided in English for the hearing impaired and Spanish. They are optional and white in color.

The only supplement here is a making-of piece called "Behind Lovelace" (13:56) that glossily talks about the production and has interviews with several of the cast and crew.

Trailers for other titles from the Weinsteins' boutique label Radius-TWC,  20 Feet from Stardom and Cutie and the Boxer, play upon inserting the disc.


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