Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Lovelace Review

Lovelace (2013) is a mostly successful biopic about Linda Lovelace, a porn star who gained notoriety from her starring role in Deep Throat (1972). It stars Amanda Seyfried as Lovelace, and Peter Sarsgaard as her (abusive?) husband who gets her into the porn business. Some of the fun of watching the movie is that practically every supporting role is filled by actors you probably know- Sharon Stone and Robert Patrick as her parents; Hank Azaria and Bobby Cannavale as the “directors;” Chris Noth as the producer; Juno Temple as Linda’s friend before fame; Adam Brody as her co-star; Chloe Sevigny as a journalist; Wes Bentley as a photographer; and James Franco as Hugh Hefner. Also, looking at the IMDB listings, Eric Roberts was in this as well, yet I can’t remember who he portrayed at this time.
An all-star cast however does not guarantee a good movie however, as anyone who has seen Out of the Furnace knows. Another issue that this film faces is that it purports to tell a true story, which can be a problem if subsequent research presents contradictory information, or omitted information that could have weakened the narrative. A great example of this is An American Crime (2007), which is also on Netflix streaming. It was a gripping film, but the heinous nature of the actual crimes committed made the film feel watered down. This must have contributed to the negative reviews of what I thought was actually a pretty good film with good performances.

Reading reviews online, Lovelace also seems to suffer from what informed people know of Linda’s life. There is no mention of the hardcore fetish films she participated in prior to Deep Throat, for example. For myself, just as with An American Crime, I can’t let myself get caught up in which details were omitted. Even good documentaries need to take a point of view to be interesting, without letting every counterargument slow down the film. Just like my review of (A)sexual, my principle for reviewing non-documentary films is to judge what the film presents to me, and if it works. Even though the film may have been soft on Lovelace, and been a bit too much from her perspective, the film is entertaining, the performances are believable, and although the subject matter is grim, it doesn’t overreach, overdramatize, or wallow in certain people’s depravity.

Although the film follows a biopic’s normal structure of girl before fame, girl meets guy, guy helps her become famous, she deals with the trappings of fame, etc., it does try something a little different. We are presented with the young girl skyrockets to fame narrative, but then the film backtracks and shows us the seedier side of the business, and the price of her stardom. This works for the most part, but even with this unique way of telling the story, the “untold” story seems predictable and even anticipated. But part of what makes this film work is that her story is not unique.  The details may change, but we can be sure that the basic arc of the average porn star’s career is the same as Linda’s. Seyfried does well in the role; she may seem like she doesn’t have much range, but I would call that “not overacting.” Sarsgaard plays a cretin without making him seem like a cartoon. The myriad of recognizable actors in supporting roles was not distracting in the Ted Danson in Saving Private Ryan way; everyone hits their marks. The script was written by Andy Bellin, who co-wrote Trust (2011) which was an excellent overlooked film (used to be on streaming, available on DVD). Just like in that film, all the characters’ words and actions are believable. You understand their motivations. Again, this is more important to me than including every detail about Lovelace’s life.

Lovelace is not revolutionary, but it moves at a brisk pace, and doesn’t drag in places that the generally superior Boogie Nights does.  This is another example of why most films should be just 90 minutes. Lovelace is definitely worth checking out.
My Netflix rating: 3 stars out of 5
My IMDB rating: 7 out of 10

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