Dir. Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman
Linda Lovelace’s infamous party-trick in 1972’s exploitation art-house porno, Deep Throat, earned her an estimated $1250, despite the film purportedly making over $600m at the box office. So you’d expect a biopic of a woman who performed a U-turn on the industry that made her name, but not her fortune, to be a scabrous insight into a world that seduced and took advantage of this brown eyed girl. Unfortunately this isn’t it, as Lovelace only scratches at the surface of the underbelly, but never fully commits to the dark side, instead presenting a breezy Boogie Nights Lite, which wraps up just as things get interesting.
Using an effective Sliding Doors set-up, Epstein and Friedman present us with an introverted Linda (Amanda Seyfried), seduced by the bright lights, funk, and more liberal approach to life of her best friend, Patsy (Juno Temple), much to the chagrin of her disciplinarian mother, played by an unrecognisable, Sharon Stone. Her fate is set when her gaze is met by bar rat and cool cat, Chuck (Peter Sarsgaard), who whisks her up in a whirlwind of marriage, music, and seemingly complicit erotic movie stardom, mingling with the likes of Hugh Hefner and Sammy Davis Jnr.
The allure doesn’t burn so bright when the perspective is from that of a lugubrious, older Lovelace, recounting the true version of events to a biographers polygraph machine. This timeline is one of horrific abuse, manipulation, and marital disharmony. Its two sides of a narrative coin, but with a story as interesting as hers, you can’t help but feel short changed.
However lightweight you may feel the dramatic beats to be, there’s no avoiding the acting wallop on display; Sarsgaard is fantastic as the snake-like charmer, convincing in both interpretations of Chuck, it’s a shame his character doesn’t get a more satisfying coda than an end credits cue card. Sharon Stone hasn’t been this good since Casino, bereft of make-up, all sharp angles and acid tongued, a real iconic matriarchal turn which evolves into something quite heart-warming. The same goes for the perennially underrated Patrick, as Linda’s father, he shares a telephone conversation with his estranged daughter which is an emotional kick to the tear ducts.
And what of the poster girl herself? Seyfried is magnificent, so often reduced to playing the “girlfriend” or the “best friend”; here she is front-and-centre, and let’s hope she stays there. Embellished with dark lenses and freckles, she imbues Lovelace with an amiable immaturity and likeability that exudes from beneath lookalike tricks. Perhaps the structure of the film doesn’t serve her that well, as the narrative whips by in a series of montages and time lapses, but when she does get the chance to shine – the aforementioned phone call, the majority of the early “Bambi on Ice” sequences, and the filming of the iconic sequence, featuring a surprisingly funny turn from Adam Brody – the movie is lifted from TV land mediocrity to something much more deserving of the subject and star.
The post-glitz and glamour Lovelace is largely ignored save for the final five minutes, as is the tragic conclusion to her personal story, so you cant help but feel that this doesn’t quite go deep enough.