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.

Arts and Entertainment

Film Leonardo DiCaprio hunts Tom Hardy

Arts and Entertainment
And now for something completely different: the ‘Sin City’ episode of ‘Casualty’
TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

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

    Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

    US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

    Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
    VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

    'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

    VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
    Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

    Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
    The male menopause and intimations of mortality

    Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

    So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
    Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

    'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

    Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
    Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

    Bettany Hughes interview

    The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
    Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

    Art of the state

    Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
    Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

    Vegetarian food gets a makeover

    Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
    The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

    The haunting of Shirley Jackson

    Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
    Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

    Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

    These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
    Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

    Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

    A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
    Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

    Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

    Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
    HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

    The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

    Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
    Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

    'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

    Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
    Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

    The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

    Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen