The problem with many biopics is that the stories they are trying to tell don’t tend to fit in appropriately with traditional cinematic narrative conventions. This means that a lot of them end up essentially being a lot of recreations of the events that occurred without ever really getting under the skin of the characters or asking why the events came to pass. Lovelace is one such film.
Linda Lovelace, for those not in the know, was the star of the infamous pornographic film Deep Throat in the early 1970s, having been bullied and coerced into making it. The film was made for a pittance and made millions of dollars at the box office while Lovelace was paid just $1000 for her starring role.
The film’s opening is quite disarming as Linda Boreman (Amanda Seyfried – Lovelace was a screen-name used for the film) meets the charming Chuck Traynor (Peter Sarsgaard), eventually to be her husband, and rushes through a whirlwind romance and everything seems to be coming up puppydogs and icecream. When Chuck suffers money problems he tries to convince some porn film-making friends that Boreman should star in their next production. They’re unconvinced until he shows them a film of her (apparently) unique talents. Linda’s views on the job opportunity are not requested.
We then cut forward to the shoot and Boreman shows little to no reluctance in fulfilling her role until, that is, the film performs the editing equivalent of a double take that should probably be accompanied by a record scratch sound effect and we shoot back in time to have the abuse Boreman has been subject to revealed to us.
I’m not sure of the point of this narrative technique. It seems that the film-makers think they are pulling the rug out from under us, as though we in the audience were all sat there safe in the knowledge that a career in pornography is much akin to a secretarial role but NO – this woman, and many like her, are abused and coerced into making the films. Ultimately, all this trick serves to do is stall the narrative as we return to scenes we’ve previously seen, with the added twist of domestic violence.
At no point do we actually get to understand these people. Traynor is an abuser who sees his woman as a way to make money, be it through her starring role or through pimping her out on the back of her reputation, and that’s just the way he is. There is no attempt to cast him in anything but this one dimensional view.
Equally, Boreman is a woman who has little to no agency in her story, seemingly happy (or unhappy) to follow whatever course is laid out for her, and even her eventual escape from her role is thanks to Deep Throat’s producer protecting her from her husband. We never learn who she is as a woman or what makes her tick. The most interesting part of her journey, and perhaps the most courageous, is her reinvention as a ‘normal’ wife and mother but this is left tacked on at the end.
Ultimately you come away from the film feeling like you’ve seen the “what”, but you’ve not been enlightened as to the “who”, the “how” or the “why”, beyond some very basic answers.
Finally, it’s worth noting that Sharon Stone is wasted in the role of Boreman’s mother, trying to protect her daughter from her own fate (or worse), or losing much of her life due to early motherhood. Stone’s casting seems like a stunt – a woman once renowned for the sex appeal and skin she brought to the screen now portraying a woman railing against exactly that – and the interesting stuff is pushed to the side. Much like the rest of the film.
Film length: 1hr 32 minutes – Feels like: 1hr 50 minutes