The film “Deep Throat” came out before I was born but it’s still the origin of the phrase I knew first. Before I’d heard of the Watergate Scandal and way before “The X Files”, I knew of its existence as a porno movie. I’d probably heard of it before I really understood what a porno was. It was whispered of as almost an urban legend – ‘cool’ older kids cultivated reputations of having seen it but I somehow doubt they had – and it was referenced in a throwaway gag (no pun intended) in “The Kentucky Fried Movie”. In any event, it had earned a place in popular (sub)culture for itself and its star Linda Lovelace.
The true story surrounding the creation of such a cultural phenomenon can provide rich pickings for a movie and with a cast boasting the likes of Amanda Seyfried, Peter Sarsgaard, Sharon Stone, Robert Patrick, Chris Noth and Hank Azaria there are the makings of a powerful and insightful drama but it just doesn’t quite come together in “Lovelace”.
Seyfried delivers a committed performance as Linda Lovelace, although often the script has nothing for her to do apart from look doe-eyed and melancholy. Her performance is far better than the movie that surrounds it. She’s certainly required to show a lot of flesh in the role, more so than every other cast member which only serves to highlight one of the film’s curious dichotomies: for a film about such a lurid topic, it’s curiously coy when it comes to its subject matter. This coyness further contrasts against a distinct lack of subtlety in hammering home some of its messages, especially regarding the nature of Lovelace’s then husband, Chuck Traynor, played with lazy menace by Peter Sarsgaard.
Told in a disjointed, non-linear fashion, the awkward structure doesn’t help the film, giving it a superficial air which is magnified by the many celebrity cameos which provoke plenty of ‘oh look, it’s what’s-his-name from that thing!’ conversations but add little to the heart of the story.
It seems to want to tackle serious themes and topics but there’s just no grit to it. It’s a lightweight, simplified telling of the story aimed squarely at the celebrity magazine reading crowd. Plenty of hints of salaciousness, but nothing which taxes the attention span and ultimately nothing too dark or unpalatable. There’s no real insight into the nature of the porn industry in the 1970s nor do we really get any kind of genuine understanding of the lead characters’ motivations beyond their actions. By the time the story reaches for its moment of emotional redemption, it’s too little too late and Linda’s escape and reconciliation falls flat rather than feeling inspirational or cathartic.