Review: 'Lovelace'

ENCINO, Calif.—Given the long and anxious build-up to its arrival, many are likely to go into Lovelace, the first biopic of Deep Throat star Linda Lovelace to make it out the door, expecting something of a Boogie Nights 2—that is, a sprawling, decadent tapestry of the actual events that launched the 1970s porno revolution.

Unfortunately, what directors Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman serve up is something more akin to Tyler Perry's Boogie Nights. The pair dutifully employs many of the same elements—inserting a little 16mm footage, getting dazzled reaction shots from onlookers to Lovelace's sexual gift, even using one of the same songs on the soundtrack (Elvin Bishop's "Fooled Around and Fell in Love")—and the result, as you can surmise, is an overall sense of derivativeness, rather than the visceral grit that might have been.

That said, Lovelace has its redeeming qualities: Amanda Seyfried is infectious in the title role (and yes, for all those champing at the bit to know, she does bare her bazooms quite a bit ... and in the immortal words of Teri Hatcher from her Seinfeld guest spot, they are spectacular). Of arguably greater note, however, is an almost unrecognizable Sharon Stone as Linda's mother, Dorothy Boreman. Stone's performance is not only brave and potent, it imbues the character with a degree of complexity markedly more layered than that of Linda herself. This, we suspect, will land Stone the kind of critical applause she hasn't seen since Martin Scorsese's Casino.

Hank Azaria also makes for an appropriately colorful choice as Deep Throat director Gerard Damiano, and Peter Sarsgaard is creep-tastically unctuous as the original suitcase pimp, Chuck Traynor. In a puzzling interlude, though, James Franco appears (as is apparently now mandatory for any motion picture having to do with adult) as Playboy magnate Hugh Hefner. For some reason, in a scenario we can't be sure is based upon any actual account, Hef is depicted as goading Linda into giving him a blowjob during a star-studded screening of Deep Throat at the historic Alex Theatre in Glendale, California. And that's the long and short of his involvement in the story.

In another seemingly contrived plot point, Linda is made to take a lie detector test by her publisher before they will print her 1980 memoir Ordeal. Though there is some documentation of Lovelace submitting to a polygraph to give her accusations against Traynor merit, the idea that a book publisher would hang the fate of such a surefire seller upon one smacks of writerly noodling with the truth. But we could be wrong.

Of course, the movie's biggest fault is its complete disregard of Lovelace's own widely reputed noodling with the truth in Ordeal and throughout her subsequent years of anti-porn crusading under the wings of such porn opponents as Andrea Dworkin and Gloria Steinem. Perhaps the fact that Steinem is thanked in Lovelace's credits speaks to that whole side of the story's omission. But it doesn't take much research to discover that just about every other figure portrayed here has painted Lovelace in the years since the events of this dramatization as a habitual liar and a woman eager to blame anyone but herself for her misfortune, particularly in regard to these events.

What's more, the movie plays fast and loose with its timeline, making it unclear just how much porn other than Deep Throat it wants to commit to Lovelace having shot. (For the record, there was hardly any, but there was one particularly notorious Deep Throat predecessor it also conspicuously overlooks, called Dog Fucker ... in which she fucked a dog.)

At least partly to blame for Lovelace's shortcomings, we would conjecture, is its curiously short running time. At a terse 92 minutes, there just isn't enough breathing room for a tale of this much spectacle and cultural significance to be properly told. Compare that to the more than additional hour of Boogie Nights, and it's clear why this comes off as just a light dusting of its subject.

As an amusing side note, incidentally, the picture's director of photography was one Eric Edwards ... not to be confused with the AVN Hall of Fame performer Eric Edwards who co-starred with Lovelace in Dog Fucker.

Lovelace is currently playing in a pre-release run at Laemmle's Town Center 5 in Encino, California, with one nightly showing at 9:55 p.m.