Berlin Film Festival review: Lovelace starring Amanda Seyfried as the troubled Deep Throat star

4.00

Sleazy and earnest by turns, the film is lifted by strong central performances

This biopic of notorious 1970s porn star Linda Lovelace wants to have it both ways.

On the one hand, filmmakers Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman wax nostalgic for the heady days of Deep Throat (the 1972 hardcore film that made Lovelace an international star), evoking a lost era of disco, sideburns, flares and extreme hedonism. On the other, they are telling a very grim story about a woman who was a victim of extreme abuse, both on camera and at the hands of her ultra-sleazy husband, Chuck Traynor.

The lurches from knockabout comedy to scenes of horrific domestic violence are disconcerting but this is a far more nuanced film than might have been anticipated.

Amanda Seyfried excels as Linda. It is a very challenging role indeed, requiring her to change from free-spirited, 21-year-old girl next door type that we first encounter to the haunted and battered woman she becomes in the wake of her marriage to Traynor (Peter Sarsgaard.)

Andy Bellin’s screenplay leaps backward and forward in time, offering us different perspectives on the same events.

The young Linda chafes against her aloof and conservative parents (played in very dour fashion by Sharon Stone and Robert Patrick.) Chuck, the pot-smoking hippy, offers her an escape. Only gradually does she realize that he has no money and is in trouble with the law.

As in Boogie Nights, the filmmakers show the camaraderie and humour of the porn pioneers.  Linda’s co-stars and director are (relatively) sympathetic and self-mocking. Linda herself seems to enjoy being in the spotlight, meeting Hugh Hefner (James Franco) and becoming a household name.

Only slowly do we realise quite how seedy and violent the porn subculture really is. Chuck becomes more and more abusive to Linda. He is intensely jealous of her success and yet he is the one who controls – and recklessly – spends the money they earn. It’s a testament to Sarsgaard’s performance that repellent though Chuck’s behaviour is, he is able to wring at least a little pathos from the character.

The details about Linda (who died in a car crash in 2002) are already well known. As the film again makes very clear, her career as a porn star was brief. Deep Throat made millions. Her cut was barely a thousand dollars. She later wrote a memoir called Ordeal in which she stated that she had been coerced into appearing in Deep Throat

This biopic manages the feat of remaining entertaining even as its storyline becomes progressively darker. Lovelace is at once an exploitation pic itself (with a healthy smattering of star cameos) and a critique of exploitation movies. The directors perform an unlikely balancing act, throwing in cheap jokes about fellatio alongside feminist polemic.

Lovelace was produced by Millennium, a company best known for action movies like The Expendables. You can’t help but wonder just why they – and directors Epstein and Friedman – wanted to make it.  Sleazy and earnest by turns, the film is ultimately lifted by the central performances and by the intelligence and sensitivity with which it tackles such sordid material.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
'Eminem's recovery from substance abuse has made him a more potent performer, with physical charisma and energy he never had before'
musicReview: Wembley Stadium ***
Arts and Entertainment
‘Dawn of Planet of the Apes’ also looks set for success in the Chinese market

film
Arts and Entertainment
The successful ITV drama Broadchurch starring David Tenant and Olivia Coleman came to an end tonight

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Characters in the new series are based on real people, say its creators, unlike Arya and Clegane the Dog in ‘Game of Thrones’

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Balaban is indirectly responsible for the existence of Downton Abbey, having first discovered Julian Fellowes' talents as a screenwriter

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Comedian, actor and broadcaster Sanjeev Bhaskar

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Chocolat author Joanne Harris has spoken about the financial struggles most authors face

books
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from How To Train Your Dragon 2

Review: Imaginative storytelling returns with vigour

film
Arts and Entertainment
Josh Hutcherson, Donald Sutherland and Jena Malone in Mockinjay: Part 1

film
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Characters in the new series are based on real people, say its creators, unlike Arya and Clegane the Dog in ‘Game of Thrones’
tv
Arts and Entertainment
A waxwork of Jane Austen has been unveiled at The Jane Austen Centre in Bath

books
Arts and Entertainment
Britney Spears has been caught singing without Auto-Tune

music
Arts and Entertainment
Unless films such as Guardians of the Galaxy, pictured, can buck the trend, this summer could be the first in 13 years that not a single Hollywood blockbuster takes $300m

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Miley Cyrus has her magic LSD brain stolen in this crazy video produced with The Flaming Lips

music
Arts and Entertainment
Gay icons: Sesame Street's Bert (right) and Ernie

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Singer Robin Thicke and actress Paula Patton

music
Arts and Entertainment
The new film will be shot in the same studios as the Harry Potter films

books
Arts and Entertainment
Duncan Bannatyne left school at 15 and was still penniless at 29

Bannatyne leaves Dragon's Den

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The French economist Thomas Piketty wrote that global inequality has worsened

books
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Super Mario crushes the Messi dream as Germany win the 2014 World Cup in Brazil

    Super Mario crushes the Messi dream

    Germany win the 2014 World Cup in Brazil
    Saharan remains may be evidence of the first race war, 13,000 years ago

    The first race war, 13,000 years ago?

    Saharan remains may be evidence of oldest large-scale armed conflict
    Scientists find early warning system for Alzheimer’s

    Scientists find early warning system for Alzheimer’s

    Researchers hope eye tests can spot ‘biomarkers’ of the disease
    Sex, controversy and schoolgirl schtick

    Meet Japan's AKB48

    Pop, sex and schoolgirl schtick make for controversial success
    In pictures: Breathtaking results of this weekend's 'supermoon'

    Weekend's 'supermoon' in pictures

    The moon appeared bigger and brighter at the weekend
    Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

    How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

    A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
    The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

    The evolution of Andy Serkis

    First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
    You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

    You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

    Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
    Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

    Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

    Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
    Children's books are too white, says Laureate

    Children's books are too white, says Laureate

    Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
    Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

    Blackest is the new black

    Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
    Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

    Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

    The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
    Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

    Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

    From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
    Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

    Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

    Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
    Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

    Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

    When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor