This lack of exploration is evident throughout Lovelace. And while I didn’t catch any other blatant chronological errors in the film, I can certainly attest to the fact that Lovelace is a dull, needlessly complex, laughably misguided mess.
Lovelace attempts to tell the story of Linda Lovelace, who became the world’s first pornographic superstar following the release of the cult sensation Deep Throat in 1972. Lovelace begins with Linda’s somewhat humble roots. How after having a baby out of wedlock, her family was forced to move from New York to Florida to avoid neighborhood shame. How she met the charming Chuck Traynor and soon fell under his spell, which resulted in a marriage based on fear and abuse. How Chuck showed a home movie of he and Linda to porn producers, who saw gold at the sight of Linda’s impressive talent.
So, in 92 minutes, the film manages to cram in an abusive husband, prostitution, gang rape, parental disregard, a behind the scenes look at the most famous porno ever made, lawsuits, Hugh Hefner, and on and on. Problem is, it presents none of this information with the patience and research that the material deserves.
At one point, Lovelace jumps ahead six months, plays out the glory days of Deep Throat, then jumps ahead six years to Linda taking a polygraph. Then it jumps back to directly after Linda and Chuck were married, and chronicles the couple’s downfall. And then it jumps forward to the glory days. And then it jumps ahead to the polygraph, again. I think.
But why? Why the narrative clutter? It adds nothing to anything and leaves viewers (or rather, this viewer) completely confused. When the flashback/jump forward bit was finished, I had no idea where I was. And still, this is the least of Lovelace’s problems.
The main problem with this film is Amanda Seyfried. Her acting talent is so superior to everything else going on in Lovelace, it makes the film feel grossly off balance. Seyfried’s film debut was as the impossibly ditzy Karen in Mean Girls and she’s made solid impressions elsewhere, as a neglected daughter in Nine Lives, as an evil temptress in Chloe, as the daughter of a polygamist in Big Love, and so on. Lovelace could’ve provided her with the opportunity to shine, but instead, she is drowned out by a bad script and lazy storytelling.
Other acting players put in solid work as well, namely the great Robert Patrick and an unrecognizable Sharon Stone, who play Linda’s parents with convincing disgrace and heartbreak. Bobby Cannavale, Hank Azaria, and Chris Noth all have a blast hamming it up as porn producers, while James Franco does his best to chew the scene as Hefner. The less said about Sarsgaard work as Traynor, the better. Sarsgaard is one of the finest actors of his generation, but Traynor is disastrously written as a caricature of dread.
Lovelace was directed by Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman, two of the most fearless American documentarians working today. Epstein won an Oscar for crafting the flawless The Times of Harvey Milk, and he and Friedman both have Oscars for their superb film, Common Threads: Stories from the Quilt. But, similarly to their flawed first feature film, Howl, Epstein and Friedman have a lot to learn about how to cohesively structure a narrative outside of the documentary form. If you want to see what these men are truly capable of, watch The Times of Harvey Milk. If you want to know more about Linda Lovelace’s story, watch the searing documentary, Inside Deep Throat. Your time will certainly be better spent. D