Lovelace Never Finds Its Woman

Linda Lovelace spent more time typing than taking off her clothes. In her one year in the porn business, she shot a single feature and a handful of shorts. In the 14 years after, she wrote four autobiographies. Only Monica Lewinsky spun such notoriety from a couple of quick BJs. Jenna Jameson, by contrast, shot more than 100 dirty movies and she's still only the adult industry's second-most famous starlet.

The films made Linda Lovelace famous. The books made her fascinating. Her first two were chipper cockstructionals, packed with advice on increasing your bust size and how to fit a foot — an actual foot — into your hoo-ha. (If Deep Throat is the Citizen Kane of porn, her early lesbian fetish snippet, The Foot, is its Pink Flamingos.) Lovelace's second two, Ordeal and Out of Bondage, were nightmares. One memorable tip: how to convince Hugh Hefner you're willing to sleep with a dog while sneakily discouraging the dog from getting fresh. But Lovelace — née Linda Boreman, later Linda Marchiano — wasn't the most credible victim. By her own admission, she spent the '70s hypnotized and stoned and the '80s as a born-again Christian who suffered from PTSD and a fragmented personality. In Lovelace, when the administer of a polygraph asks her, "Is your name Linda Lovelace?" she pales and pleads, "Can we start with an easier question?"

Directors Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman don't have an answer, either. Instead, they punt, believing in all Lindas — the innocent kid who thinks oral sex is "disgusting," the porno sweetheart, the avenging angel — and giving the audience blue balls. Opening with disco roller-skating and a Boogie Nights font, Lovelace tricks us into thinking it's a retro romp starring Hollywood's most literally wide-eyed ingenue, the otherworldly beauty Amanda Seyfried. Even tarted up with a terrible '70s perm, Seyfried has the gamboling innocence of a sexy, sexy deer. She plays Lovelace as both shy and eager, a contradiction that doesn't add up, and when Seyfried looks at an offscreen penis, she seems to be thinking, Whiz jeepers! Is that for me?

Peter Sarsgaard and Amanda Seyfried
Dale Robinette
Peter Sarsgaard and Amanda Seyfried

Details

Starring Amanda Seyfried, Peter Sarsgaard, Hank Azaria, Wes Bentley, Adam Brody, Bobby Cannavale, James Franco, Debi Mazar, Chris Noth, and Robert Patrick. Directed by Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman. Written by Andy Bellin. 92 minutes. Rated R. Opens Friday, August 9.

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Something is off, but it's at first unclear if Lovelace knows. The first half of the film is unsettlingly upbeat — "We have the best job in the world!" chirps her costar Harry Reems (Adam Brody) — but the rah-rah vibe is subtly askew. While Lovelace is in the makeup chair getting ready for her big debut, her co-workers and Epstein and Friedman's camera glance at the bruises on her legs, but no one questions their origin. At the Deep Throat wrap party, the film-within-the-film crew hears Linda and her husband, Chuck Traynor (Peter Sarsgaard), bang around in a hotel room. The director snickers that she's a sexual animal. We're tempted to snicker too — but if we do, we're stumbling into Lovelace's trap.

Traynor isn't boning Linda. He's beating her. Rather than make sense of the Deep Throat star's contradictory history, Lovelace chooses to be a one-person Rashomon. In the first half, Seyfried plays her as a sex doll in her own biopic, a bit of shiny plastic. In the second, Lovelace rewinds to the day she married Traynor and shines a flashlight on what we missed: the abuse, the guns, the degradation that Linda — and everyone else — thought she deserved. In one gut-punch of a scene, the Malibu cops interrupt Traynor while he's attacking Linda in the street, and when they realize they've seen this housewife screw, they allow her husband to drag her home.

That's the Linda Lovelace paradox: How did a battered woman get nationally misread as the poster girl for the sexual revolution? Especially when her famous skill was about giving — not receiving — pleasure? Where did sweet little Bronx girl Linda Boreman, raised on meatloaf and Biblical mandates to submit herself unto her husband, go astray? Lovelace points so many fingers that it needs two hands: her callously conservative mother (Sharon Stone), her passive father (Robert Patrick), her weed-smoking best friend (Juno Temple), the hustling porntrepreneurs who used her to make a buck (Chris Noth, Hank Azaria), and the porn kings such as Hugh Hefner (James Franco) who used her charm to legitimize their careers. And, of course, there's Traynor, a villain in a cheap red suit who looks cheaper and cheaper the more money he makes off his wife's lady bits and limber larynx. As Sarsgaard plays him, Traynor is a pathetic goon so fame-hungry that he sincerely asks, "Why wouldn't I want my name on the side of a dildo?" The best thing about the film is that even the directors don't take him seriously. Which, of course, raises the question: Why would Linda?

With Deep Throat on DVD, it's still possible to see every inch of Linda Lovelace without ever seeing the woman herself in focus. Lovelace, ahem, blows it. The narrative rewind gives us new facts and a whole heap of crying scenes but no added insight into Linda's mind — she's still as empty as an inflatable toy. Yet, though it fails as a story of one woman, it slightly succeeds as a study about all women in bad relationships who do things that aren't in their best interest, many of them making movies in the San Fernando Valley this minute for less fame but probably more money. (Traynor pocketed Linda's $1,250 Deep Throat fee. There were no residuals.) Who was the real Linda Lovelace? "I want to be an actress, you know," she giggles to an interviewer. The scene is meant to be naive and ironic, but the real irony is that Linda Lovelace might have been such a good actress that she fooled everyone.

 
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3 comments
gumsandals
gumsandals

Haven't seen the flick yet, but did it mention Linda came out of Hialeah/Hialeah High? As for the motel in which it was shot in, it's now part of Johnson and Wales University.

linda_grosz
linda_grosz

The question is why do a film on Linda Lovelace?

She was not beautiful, she was not sexy, but she was fearless, or was suffering from such low self esteem that she didn't care. She did become famous for "fifteen minutes",due to being able to control her gag reflex enough to swallow an entire penis and slide it down her throat. I met her at Hefner's mansion in L.A. a few years after the movie in 1974. She had no charisma and I found her unattractive and uninteresting, but I don't have a penis! Hef, who you mention, is not a pornographer, he's a marketing genius who packaged the girl next door in next to nothing and got society to accept it, and he became very rich doing it. Linda Lovelace could have been any female willing to do what was done in the movie. The movie itself was a trailblazer and changed obscenity laws as well as helped to start the conversation on sex back in the 70's. That conversation helped us to evolve to where we are today, where we can say "blowjob, penis balls, vagina, nipples, anal, gay, bi, black, fuck", whatever! (Deep Throat was filmed in North Miami Beach at a now demolished motel on 125th St. "Deep Throat" is also the name of the infamous informant of Watergate)

Linda Grosz

lenny14
lenny14

@linda_grosz Thanks for both the question (which everybody knows why) and your answer. You pretty much describe why a story like this is retold.

Some of my friends decided, at that time, that I had to see that movie, that night. I protested that porn never did anything for me and wasn't interested. They insisted I go, and dragged me off to the movies. I was so surprised to see a movie, with sex, that had a plot, and was funny at the same time. I still don't bother with porn, but I am glad I saw the story. It was, as mentioned, unique.

 

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