LOVELACE. Starring Amanda Seyfried, Peter Sarsgaard, Hank Azaria, Adam Brody, Juno Temple, James Franco, Sharon Stone and Chris Noth. Directed by Rob Epstein, Jeffrey Friedman. 93 minutes. Rated MA 15+ (strong themes, sex scenes and drug use).
Much more to this film than might have been first thought. And it is a film that needs to be seen right until the end.
For those who remember the seventies, there will be a curiosity to learn something about Linda Lovelace, the star of the multi-million dollar box-office porn movie, Deep Throat. For those who don’t remember it, the film will offer some insight into the public image and the private reality of the young Florida woman who was persuaded to perform in the film.
Amanda Seyfried is a long way from Cosette and Mamma Mia’s daughter as Linda Lovelace. She gives a very good performance. Peeta Sarsgaard is also very convincing as her charming then brutish husband. The film-makers have persuaded quite a number of Hollywood character actors to play supporting roles, the surprising one being an unrecognisable Sharon Stone as Linda’s mother. James Franco is Hugh Hefner. Hank Azariah is the director, Gerard Damiano. Chris Noth has a significant role as an organized crime producer of Deep Throat.
By halfway through the film when Linda takes a bow at Hugh Hefner’s private screening of the film, we have an impression of a rather naïve young woman, susceptible to her mother’s strict Catholic injunctions about a wife obeying her husband, a woman who is cautiously fun-loving at first, but then under the sway of her irresponsible husband who persuades her to be in the film and makes his pitch to the company which is trying to bring some ‘art’ into the pornography industry.
There is a lot of smooth and double talk about art and the movies, about what audiences want and about sex. Linda seems swept up in the talk, doing what Chuck wants and enjoying the popularity.
And then there is the other half of the film.
Linda is taking a polygraph test since her publishers want to know whether what she has written in Ordeal is fact of fiction. Now we see the flashbacks. Her mother is not quite the dragon lady of the first half, though not prone to express emotions. Chuck is definitely the exploitative monster. He dominates his wife, even raising money by prostituting her. He pressures her into making the film. He is particularly violent and abusive after the Hefner party. This is the picture of the naïve young woman who cannot get out of the clutches of her husband.
Perhaps the truth is a mixture of both.
Lovelace is certainly no endorser of pornography. It shows the business side of the industry and its successes commercially, but, as the ageing star (Debi Mazar) tells Linda, as you grow older you need to have developed other skills, otherwise…
The book is published. Linda is married and has a son. The epilogue reminds us that Linda Marchiani (her married name) campaigned against pornography and domestic violence for 20 years before her untimely death at 53 as a result of injuries that she suffered in a car accident. She regretfully notes at one stage that she spent 17 days on the film but that this was what she was remembered for.
Fr Peter Malone MSC is an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film & Broadcasting.
Out September 26, 2013.