Lovelace (2013) - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies

Lovelace (2013)

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Big starAndrew INDIFFERENCE BannerLovelace is a confused movie that seems set to criticize an era of pornographic film making for the abuse against women that made it possible.  Instead, it starts trickling down a list of star making events that pushed Linda Lovelace into the limelight.  Then it remembers the abuse and tries to double-back to make sure that's covered.  But there's another resurgence.

Biographical films run into this issue commonly because the creators are torn between telling whatever "the real story" is and playing to the myth.  Lovelace starts by showing the exuberance of a girl hitting it big after living under the oppressive thumb of her conservative parents.  The lights, the celebrities, the glamour - all things that look great in the right light.  So she smiles, because this is a dream life and she's the one living it.  But what's she really thinking, especially with the revelations that come toward the end?

It's a question that Lovelace poses but doesn't answer.  She's alone in the tub at the beginning, seemingly at the end of her career, while the soundtrack asks repeatedly, "Who is Linda Lovelace?"  After the parties have died down and the bruises that she carried have come to light I should have some answers.  But I don't know much more about Linda Lovelace now than before I started watching the film, which is a problem if that question forms the basis of everything we see.

The look of the time is well integrated.

The look of the time is well integrated.

The events of Lovelace aren't a complete overview of Lovelace's life, but only some time before she made Deep Throat, her marriage to Chuck Traynor (Peter Sarsgaard), and years afterward when she writes about the experience.  Amanda Seyfried's performance as Lovelace is unquestionably the best part of the film, letting the fleeting moments of joy in her life take her to another place while she plays the role her husband set for her.  The performances are uniformly excellent, with Sarsgaard and Seyfried performing their own dolled-up version of Sid and Nancy, only with more sex instead of drugs.

The look of the film is very nice too.  Everything has the washed-over grainy feel of a reel that was left too long in the sun.  The directors Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman are good at letting the era inform the shots instead of dominating it, which is good because multi-box cinematography would not have meshed well with any of the scenes.  When time passes the look changes subtly along with it, as later scenes that take place in the '80s now have the blurry jags of a VHS transfer.

All of this is fine if I was just checking off boxes, but then Lovelace does something with the narrative that highlights its confusion.  Until about halfway through the film it seems like Lovelace's life is going to be perfect. Deep Throat is a hit, she gets photo spreads all to herself, and she's made a powerful connection in Hugh Hefner.  But right when she's taking her bow the film jumps back several years to events that we have already seen, changing the perspective slightly to allow the audience in on just what was happening to Linda.  If done better this could have been a moment that changed the entire thrust of the movie, instead it just feels like a cheap trick.

Peter Sarsgaard isn't handed a character with a lot of nuance but still pulls a menacing performance out of it..

Peter Sarsgaard isn't handed a character with a lot of nuance but still pulls a menacing performance out of it..

Revisiting these moments highlight even further that the movie was never really about what Lovelace felt.  Yes, she has a tearful moment with her mother where she says that she wants to come home, and that's all very dramatic but is more about her mother's views than hers.  Other moments where it seems that Lovelace is going to get her chance to express her opinion on anything are dominated by silent reaction shots or Chuck's destructive behavior.  We're never allowed into Lovelace's head, even when she has the time to speak for herself at the end she is mediated through a talk show and her parents.

The narrative trick also brings up the question of just what the Epstein / Friedman team was doing even hinting at the abuse to begin with.  Lovelace spends the first forty minutes dancing around the abuse that is clearly occurring with the characters none too casually making note of her bruises while the camera follows suit.  If the point is to revisit these moments and show how much is taking place behind the glamor, then it does the narrative injustice to hint at it to begin with.  That it revisits these moments and still doesn't take the time to really get Lovelace's reaction or thoughts is bizarre and devolves the narrative into misery porn.

Lovelace is a missed opportunity to really have a dialogue about her life and the abuses that was extremely prevalent.  About halfway through the film she's asked what she feels like as the centerpiece of the sexual revolution?  I still don't know, and if the film was going to bring up those questions without trying to answer them, then I have to wonder what everyone was spending all that time for.

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Tail - LovelaceLovelace (2013)

Directed by Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman.
Screenplay written by Andy Bellin.
Starring Amanda Seyfried and Peter Sarsgaard.

Posted by Andrew

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