Linda Lovelace was an iconic adult film star in the 70s. Though she would grow to regret her association with the industry, her impact can still be felt in the world of porn today. Lovelace attempts to provide a glimpse into a side of her that few knew about. It is a film that, in trying to chronicle the patterns of domestic abuse, inadvertently exploits Linda Lovelace almost as badly as others did when she was alive.
The film ideally wants to show that Linda Lovelace (Amanda Seyfried) was ultimately a victim of her surroundings. She was a naive girl from a good background who was seduced by the charms of Chuck Traynor (Peter Sarsgaard). Immersed in criminal activity, Traynor was a man that few people trusted and many feared due to his volatile nature. It was Traynor who coerced Lovelace into starring in Deep Throat, the adult film that would make her a household name across America. Traynor exploited her fame in the most heinous ways possible, including forcing her to prostitute herself.
By focusing so much on the spousal abuse Linda Lovelace endured during her life, directors Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman end up making Linda Lovelace a victim who we feel nothing for. The film gives Traynor so much attention that it often feels like Linda Lovelace is merely a passenger in her own story. Unlike other biopics featuring women in abusive relationships, such as the vastly superior What’s Love Got to Do with It, we never get the redemption moment the film truly needs. At the end of the day we are supposed to be satisfied with the fact that Linda Lovelace finally got people to believe that she was manipulated and abused by Traynor.
What Epstein and Friedman fail to realize is that Traynor was only a small fraction of what made Linda Lovelace such a fascinating figure. After all, this was the woman that starred in the most successful mainstream porn film of all-time, and several other adult films, only to turn around and spend 20 years as one of the biggest advocates against the porn industry. Besides a quick note in the end credits, this side of Lovelace’s life is completely omitted from the film. Like Traynor, the film is only interested in exploiting the vulnerable side of Linda Lovelace.
Lovelace even has the nerve to double back on itself to reveal that the events in the first half of the film were not exactly how they seemed. The moments of joy during Lovelace’s rise to fame were always bookmarked by a violent act by Traynor. The problem with this approach is that at no point do we ever feel that Lovelace is truly enjoying the highs associated with her fame. Through the entire film she is either portrayed as a doe-eyed girl or as a doe-eyed girl who is being victimized. The “big reveal” moments do nothing more than reinforce what we already knew from the beginning…Traynor was a despicable man.
The infuriating thing about Lovelace is that by all accounts this film should have worked. As far as biopics go, there is more than enough gold to mine from Linda Lovelace’s life. The documentary Inside Deep Throat proved this in spades by offering a far more engaging, not to mention thought-provoking, look at Lovelace’s life both on and off-screen. You cannot help but watch Lovelace and reflect on how the star-studded cast, which includes the likes of Sharon Stone, Chris Noth, Juno Temple, Adam Brody and James Franco, is underutilized in the film. They are all simply too good for the bland material they are presented with. This is especially true for Amanda Seyfried who is wonderful as Lovelace. She gives one of her finest performances, but is ultimately overshadowed by the films derivative structure. Lovelace is meant to be a film that ultimately empowers its subject, but somehow only manages to further victimize her.