Lovelace biopic a tad shallow

Lovelace biopic a tad shallow

LOVELACE (Not rated yet)

Review: Drama

Rating: 2.5/5

Duration: 92 minutes

The story: The biopic of Linda Lovelace (Amanda Seyfried) traces her life from the time she marries the charming but abusive Chuck Traynor (Peter Sarsgaard) to several years after her performance in Deep Throat, a movie that broke the wall between mainstream cinema and pornography in the 1970s, turning her into a symbol of both sexual liberation and sexual shame. Born Linda Boreman, she writes a book revealing that she has been a hostage to both her husband and the porn industry.

Varying in tone from the ploddingly earnest to the deliberately campy, this is a biopic that seems afraid of its subject matter, circling it with inappropriate caution, unwilling to make a statement other than the obvious one that says "normal" young women, even those from "good" homes, can become pawns in the sex trade.

It violates the rule that says that if your movie cannot say what it needs to say, then do not bother making it.

There is undeniably an "ick factor" in the story of Linda Boreman. Several of them in fact. Misogyny is the least of it; there is also rape, spousal abuse and sex trafficking. The problem facing directors Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman (both with long careers in documentaries and television dramas) is: How do you tell a story of a woman coerced into prostitution and the pornography industry without making the work an unrelenting barrage of misery?

Screenwriter Andy Bellin (writer of 2010's Trust, a fictional work about a girl and an online sexual predator) approaches Lovelace's story by telling it twice: The first third mostly shows the version of her story that the public imagined happened in Deep Throat's heyday; the middle section replays that story as detailed in her post-film tell-all book.

This Rashomon-style technique of shifting perspectives might have worked if the audience was not already aware of the horrors she suffered at the hands of the men in her life. When the degradation is shown in the rewind section, it is anticlimactic; the audience would have already filled in the blanks, often with images far worse than that which can be shown.

The revelations therefore fail to shock. Worse, they seem merely illustrative and perfunctory. However, the film does offer an insight into a pernicious contradiction in American pop culture: Women who flaunt their sexuality are both publicly celebrated and shamed.

Amanda Seyfried in the role of the title character never really comes alive as a real person, a fault having to do with her real personality at the time, which appeared to be that of a people-pleaser taken to extremes, and that of the film-makers, who make her appear to be without the common sense to comprehend the quagmire into which she is sinking.

The real Boreman might have been a puppet in the hands of deranged husband Traynor (Sarsgaard, putting his slow-burn intensity to good use) but 90-odd minutes of watching a puppet, an empty shell with no agenda or goal of her own, gets a little dull.

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