In this true-life biopic, Amanda Seyfried plays the world’s first porn star, Linda Lovelace, who famously appeared in the blockbuster skin flick Deep Throat. Against audience expectations, Lovelace reveals how Linda was not a salacious diva but a gentle ingénue who was viciously exploited by her scumbag husband-manager (Peter Sarsgaard).
Shot on grainy stock and meticulously detailed with the fashions and fads of the 1970’s (roller discos, afros, and KC and the Sunshine Band), the film looks like a visual blend of kitsch and snuff film. It impressively illustrates the heroine’s troubled universe with an inventive period veritè.
Directed by documentarians Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman, the story charts Linda’s journey from naïve teen to battered bride to celebrity to activist, but their biography is cursory. The filmmakers neglect to explore how she unwittingly birthed the modern adult-entertainment industry and became the first victim of its dangerous illusion of stardom.
In many ways Lovelace could be a prequel to Paul Thomas Anderson’s Boogie Nights. With far less depth or insight, it remains a pretty routine melodrama. Linda escapes her oppressive mother (Sharon Stone) only to endure and overcome years of marital violence. If it wasn’t rife with sex and nudity, you might see Lovelace on the Lifetime Network.
On the plus side, Seyfried gives a painfully vulnerable performance. Her sympathy for her character (whom the movie clearly considers an innocent victim) is so consummate it’s contagious. If never a great biopic, Lovelace if anything still helps to restore its subject’s reputation, and dispel any skepticism about its star’s acting ability.