In 1972, 21 year old suburban girl Linda Lovelace (Amanda Seyfried), meets the outwardly charming Chuck Traynor (Peter Sarsgaard) and after introducing him to her parents Dorothy (Sharon Stone) and John (Robert Patrick), agrees to marry him. But Chuck's charm is illusory and he coerces Linda into making a $25,000 porn movie, after coaching her in fellatio - which she performs so well in her first role for the movie Deep Throat that she becomes an instant star. Deep Throat becomes a phenomenon and crosses over into mainstream society, going on to gross up to $600 million. But behind the scenes, Chuck is abusive and Linda's world grows dark, refused refuge at home, living in risk with Chuck. (Based on a true story.)
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Coming eight years after Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato's excellent doco, Inside Deep Throat, Lovelace is a dramatisation of the rather sad story of Linda Lovelace, given dynamic lift by a set of extraordinary performances. There's Amanda Seyfried as Linda, a girl next door (in a strict home with little joy) portraying Lovelace in a variety of emotional and psychological states, all of them beautifully, movingly conveyed. She is de-glamourised to fit the real Linda (who died after a car accident in 2002, having recovered her life) but not de-sensitised.
Peter Sarsgaard is hideously excellent as her manipulative low life husband Chuck Traynor, the flip side perhaps of his seductive but forgiveable character David in An Education (2009).
There is little doubt that most attention will focus on the relatively small but crucial role of Dorothy, Linda's mother, played with heartbreaking honesty by Sharon Stone, unrecognisable under her up-tight suburban persona, both guilt-ridden and cold-hearted. Robert Patrick is also deeply impressive as Linda's father John, a challenging role that is performed almost entirely internally.
All supports are outstanding, with Juno Temple terrific as her friend Patsy, Hank Azaria and Chris Noth as porn movie types and James Franco as Hugh Hefner.
The film begins with the outer layer of Linda's experience, and only taking us into her real nightmare once her fame has been established and thus it serves to put everything in context. This works well as a dramatic structure with which to engage the audience.
Where Baily & Barbato delivered the entertaining but revealing doco, this dramatisation adds a deeper emotional resonance, adding pathos and pain with which we can readily empathise.
Review by Louise Keller:
Based on the life of Deep Throat porn star Linda Lovelace, there's more tragedy than titillation in this story about a young girl intimidated by her perverse, abusive husband who forces her into corner of sexual depravity. While Howl directors Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman deliver the crux of what the audience wants to know - how the daughter of a strict working class couple from Florida could become thus exploited, there are other perspectives revealed, namely her mother's guilt as well as the world view of the phenomenon evoked by 'the poster girl for the sexual revolution'.
It is hard to forget the look on Chuck Traynor's (Peter Sarsgaard) face, when Linda Boreman (Amanda Seyfried) notices him watching her spontaneously Go-Go dancing at the local roller-rink in 1970. His interest for the freckle-faced, curvaceous Linda goes far beyond lust; their relationship is based on control and obsession as he becomes her husband and manager. 'All I need is money, he says,' before using his wife as his sexual pawn, selling her without qualms to any bidder.
The interesting aspect of Andy Bellin's screenplay is the way the narrative plays out in linear fashion, before retracing its steps, revealing aspects, nuances and details that we were not shown initially. These include abuse, threats and intimidation as Linda is prostituted, subjected to gang rape and spends 17 high-profile days getting her tongue around the film porn industry as the girl with a clitoris in her throat. Wes Bently and Hank Azaria epitomize sleaze as the porn film producers, while Chris Noth brings an additional element of intimidation as a member of the mob. The extraordinary fact that while lurid film took around $600 million at the box office, its star only pocketed $1,250.
Seyfried is suitably de-glamorised as the unworldly Linda, portraying her as a sad, frightened young woman totally out of control of her life. Seyfried's unselfconsciousness as she bounces topless through fellatio scenes negates tawdry connotations. Her cries for help to her parents go unanswered: the harsh, insensitive response from her mother (Sharon Stone, unrecognisable) to obey her husband is cruel to the extreme. It is therefore apt that film's emotional payoff lies between Linda and her mother, while Robert Patrick is also effective as Linda's father. As Chuck, Sarsgaard is a frightening presence.
Just as the story jumps by 6 years to reveal Linda in the throes of writing her life story, the film also has a disconnect. It's voyeuristic, unbelievable and often shocking as it delivers surprises, twists and many elements of interest, including an effective depiction of the times during the sexual revolution.
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CAST: Amanda Seyfried, Peter Sarsgaard, Hank Azaria, Adam Brody, Juno Temple, James Franco, Sharon Stone, Chris Noth, Robert Patrick, Wes Bentley, Eric Roberts, Chloe Sevigny, Bobby Cannavale
PRODUCER: Heidi Jo Markel, Laura Rister, Jason Weinberg, Jim Young
DIRECTOR: Rob Epstein, Jeffrey Friedman
SCRIPT: Andy Bellin
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Eric Edwards
EDITOR: Robert Dalva, Matthew Landon
MUSIC: Stephen Trask
PRODUCTION DESIGN: William Arnold
RUNNING TIME: 93 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: September 26, 2013