Lovelace

Amanda Seyfried stars as Deep Throat, the anonymous source behind the Watergate scandal.

Amanda Seyfried stars as Deep Throat, the anonymous source behind the Watergate scandal.

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.

D

Film length: 1hr 32 minutes – Feels like: 1hr 50 minutes

This Is The End

Which Hollywood 'comedians' would you most like to see die? If you answered Adam Sandler, Vince Caughan or Owen Wilson, you're out of luck.

Which Hollywood ‘comedians’ would you most like to see die? If you answered Adam Sandler, Vince Caughan or Owen Wilson, you’re out of luck.

This Is The End is a strange beast. Definitely funny enough to be worth seeing, it still suffers from the kind of over-indulgence that can plague this kind of project – one that could easily be labelled ‘vanity’.

So, the story. Jay Baruchel comes to LA to spend time with his old friend Seth Rogan (yes – everyone is playing themselves). Jay feels like he and his buddy have been drifting apart since Rogan started making it big so is giving the friendship one last shot before writing it off. His plans are ruined when Seth wants to go to James Franco’s housewarming. Jay’s wary of all the fake new Hollywood friends and fears Rogan will hang with them rather than him. When his fears start to become reality he heads out to buy some cigarettes. Rogan catches him on the way out and they go together. While at the store, the Rapture begins, featuring an earthquake and those who have lived good lives being beamed up into heaven. Rogan misses the latter and so can’t corroborate Jay’s story when they get back to Franco’s, making him sound crazy and further setting him apart from all of Franco’s friends.

Things unfold and we’re left with a gang of 6 (Rogan, Baruchel, Franco, Jonah Hill, Craig Robinson and Danny McBride, plus a short cameo from Emma Watson) holed up in Franco’s house as the world outside burns.

There are a couple of questions that come out of all this, the first of which I have already answered to an extent – is it funny? Yes, it is. It has more than enough laugh-out-loud moments to justify seeing the film. The second question is whether or not it can justify using the actors to play themselves, and this is a much greyer area. There are two moments which justify this, and both are cameos rather than featuring members of the central cast. The coked-up, self-centred version of Michael Cera is very funny indeed, but the stand-out is Emma Watson, playing her role completely straight and proving herself to be much funnier than the men surrounding her.

Outside of those two, though, I’m not sure the conceit really offers much to the film. With a bit of tweaking, the same script would have worked just as well (if not better) with actors playing roles rather than themselves. Because they’re not quite famous enough for us to know much about their lives outside of their films, they end up with only minor riffs on what’s gone before. The funniest moments for the group are around simple arguments over the passing around of a loaded gun or Danny McBride’s usage of one of Franco’s magazines. These riffs could be done with any characters in any circumstances rather than springing organically from the characters and situations specifically in this movie. Compare, for example, the humour in Shaun of the Dead, where almost every joke comes about specifically because of the characters involved. It’s almost as if the ‘playing themselves’ conceit came about because it made it easier than having to create actual characters for everyone to play.

When the script falls back on either pot-smoking or dick jokes it tends to fall a bit flat as these have been done better in plenty of other places. It’s as though these are a safety net to rely on when there’s nothing to carry the story through to the next plot point.

Finally, I am always wary when a comedy film uses expensive special effects. Yes, they are justified in some cutaways to seeing LA burn, but the biggest effects are saved for a giant devil character roaming the streets, giant penis freely swinging around, which seems to be a fairly large waste of money.

All of that said, I will reiterate that this is still a funny film and worth your time.

B

Running Time: 1hr 47mins – Feels Like: 1hr 47mins