Lovelace

30 Aug

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Lovelace is a biographical film about Linda Boreman (Amanda Seyfried), who became known to the world as Linda Lovelace, a one-time pornographic actress who appeared in one of the most lucrative adult movies of all time. Abused by her increasingly violent and desperate husband Chuck (Peter Sarsgaard), she struggles to break free from his grasp and start her life again.

I’ll start off with the things I did like about this film; the central performances are excellent. I can’t tell you whether Seyfried is a particularly good Linda Lovelace as she’s not somebody I was previously familiar with, but her acting in this movie is of a very high standard. The nature of her role requires her to portray a level of personal torment and unhappiness, which she conveys perfectly. She also does an extremely good job of inhabiting the sexy, sassy and playful side of the character. I found her to be a fantastic casting choice and she is thoroughly watchable for the entirety of her time on screen.

The other excellent choice was Sarsgaard as Chuck Traynor. His character is abhorrent and he fills the role with great skill. In scenes where he is being abusive to his wife he offers a very real sense of intimidation. He also oozes desperation; his whole motive for essentially forcing Linda into the porn industry was to make money, and you get to see just how far he’ll push Linda for his own ends.

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The supporting cast members are all fine as well. Nobody jumps out as exceptional, though Juno Temple, Hank Azaria and Bobby Cannavale all played their parts as well as you’d expect from actors of their proven talent.

One directorial decision that I’m not completely sure worked was to show parts of the film in a non-linear structure. The film makes several uses of a ‘Six months later” style jump in time to progress to story without filling in the middle bits. However, after one of these jumps, we then get to see a few flashbacks, that act as extensions of scenes we’ve already watched to fill in the gaps. I can see why this was done; I’d say that the reveals that are shown this way are meant to increase the shock element. The problem with that though is that we already know by that point which way the story is going, and so it isn’t really shocking at all.

The main problem for me with this film is that it felt like an opportunity to make a really gritty drama, and it ends up feeling like relatively light entertainment, at least in comparison to its subject matter. There are a couple of scenes that make for fairly unpleasant viewing, but I think they should be worse than that – it just doesn’t feel quite harrowing enough in places.

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The other real issue is that I think most viewers will come away feeling like they’ve only scratched the surface of the Linda Lovelace story. It’s certainly a tale worth telling, and what we do see is largely well presented in every aspect, but there should be more. We know Chuck needed money, but what really drove him to be so abusive? What made Linda so seemingly easy to coerce in the first instance? We can see Chuck is manipulative and just the worst kind of man, but in reality the film provides the bare minimum of character development required to tell the story at all. This is not only a disservice to the story and the viewer, but also to the actors who are in such excellent form that they deserved the chance to delve deeper into their characters.

Please be aware the next paragraph may be considered a mini-spoiler as it details one mid-film plot point. Skip past this paragraph if you don’t want to know about. Okay? Okay…

One scene I did absolutely love in every single aspect was one played out between Linda and her mother Dorothy (Sharon Stone). In it, Linda tells her mother that Chuck beats her and begs to be allowed to stay at her house for a few nights. Dorothy’s reaction is one that displays an attitude that is hard to comprehend now, but would perhaps have been more prevalent in this era; she tells Linda that she should go home and be a good wife. She seems appalled by the fact her daughter has approached her in this way and refuses to let her stay over. The scene makes for fairly uncomfortable viewing as a mother willfully pushes her daughter towards a domestic violence, but it is undeniably excellent in every regard; it’s well acted, well shot and the dialogue is superb.

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Despite it’s flaws, Lovelace is still a good film, it’s just unfortunate that it isn’t quite the movie the story deserves. With an excellent lead performance from Seyfried and equally brilliant turn from Sarsgaard, it’s hard not to wonder what they could have done had they been given more character to play with. I so, so want to score this film one mark higher than I’m going to because I feel the score I am going to give doesn’t necessarily reflect my level of enjoyment of the movie. That always leaves me torn when I’m writing a review but, with a desire to score the film correctly, I can’t get away from the fact that it’s story craft and lack of depth undermine some of the excellent things that are here. It’s a worthy watch, just don’t be expecting anything heavy.

6/10

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