Friday, August 30, 2013

Rohan: Some Love for Lovelace

(TODAY'S GUEST: Rohan Morbey, who blogs at Stop Thinking For Yourself UK, rejoins us here to share his thoughts on the biopic Lovelace. We're always happy to welcome Rohan to Jaman HQ, and hope you will follow him on Twitter.)

Lovelace is a perfectly fine biopic and functions well in delivering the dark story of Linda Lovelace’s life, going beyond the famous pornographic film Deep Throat. The film’s success, however, is limited to how much interest the viewer has in Linda’s story; fans of her legacy will no doubt know all of the details, whereas casual viewers may struggle to invest emotionally in the story.

First and foremost, the film is well directed throughout, and doesn’t rely on titillation or attempts to be flash or sexy, which was a wise decision considering the material. The film could easily have shown gratuitous sex scenes or lingered on the making of Deep Throat, but it has more interest in keeping Linda’s life the focus of the story. In addition to the steady direction, the film has a great attention to period detail and never looks like actors playing dress up, which only adds the credibility and shows a lot of work went into recreating the era, especially on a relatively low budget.

As Linda, Amanda Seyfried is superb and unflinching in the role, bringing a reality to her performance rather than going for imitation. As her abusive husband Chuck Traynor, Peter Sarsgaard is equally convincing and comes across as a genuine threat and not an evil caricature, whereas Robert Patrick and an unrecognizable Sharon Stone are solid in small roles as Linda’s parents. In fact, no one puts in a bad performance in the film, although James Franco is wasted in the small role as Hugh Hefner.

The structure of the film was also quite refreshing. The first act sets up Linda’s rise to stardom and celebrity status and shows the fame which she accrued, which to today’s audience might seem incredible considering her movies were selling out movie theatres and went on to gross $600 million worldwide. The film then goes back and reveals the abuse she suffered at the hands of her husband, and in structuring the story in this way, the film draws you in before the dark story unfolds. However, it is exactly this story which becomes stagnant by the end; whilst appalling in the acts she suffered, the relentless nastiness doesn’t take the film to any particular point in particular. Linda leaves Chuck and soon gets her life back on track and the film wraps up as nicely as it possibly can; any psychological damages she may have suffered, or the publication of her best-selling autobiography are washed over in favor to end the movie all-too quickly.

Is the point of Lovelace to tell the story of a woman suffering abuse, or is it to gain an insight into the life of Linda? Either way, the film doesn’t go far enough to succeed at either goal; though she suffered terrible abuse, the movie fails to make such traumatic experiences compelling, or even particularly interesting. As mentioned before, perhaps someone with an interest in Linda’s life might find something more than the film is offering to the general audience. At only 87 minutes before the end credits begin, the film isn’t long enough to invest in the career of Linda nor is it long enough to show what happened to her after the abuse ended. 

Lovelace is a well-made and well-acted film, but beyond the standard biopic value, it offers very little else. If that is its objective then OK, but it feels like it is striving to be much more than just that.

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