The biopic Lovelace, depicting the anguish-filled life of Deep Throat star Linda Lovelace, is a compelling, well-composed film that will have you feeling thankful for your life’s own blessings. The movie shows how Lovelace, born Linda Boreman, went from a young adult to the star of the most mainstream pornographic film of all time. Lovelace portrays Linda from the ages of 2o to 32-years-old and illustrates the fascinating and brutal behind-the-scenes story of her life during these times. 

Amanda Seyfried stars as Linda and Seyfried nails the role. She is innocence mixed with sex, her wide eyes wide open to the adventures in store for her. This could have not been an easy role to play, filled with tears, tragic circumstances and mucho sexuality. But Seyfried shines and truly carries the movie on her narrow shoulders despite standing alongside a cast brimming with stars.  

Lovelace begins in Florida, 1970. Linda is a young 20-year-old conservative, uninterested in sex due to getting pregnant a year earlier when she lost her virginity and recently giving her baby up for adoption. Lovelace is still “Linda Boreman” and living with her parents. Linda soon meets and is swept off her feet by Chuck Traynor, an older man who Linda views as wise, cool and who introduces her to passionate sex, awakening her sexuality. Chuck is played by the stellar Peter Skaarsgard, who makes Chuck likable and exciting in the first half of the movie and revolting and despicable in the second.

In 1972, Linda Lovelace became a household name when Deep Throat hit theaters and appeared to revolutionize the adult entertainment industry. The movie became a smash hit and included a plot and script, humor, character development and high production standards. Lovelace became enthusiastic about her role, which the movie projectile-launched her into, as a spokeswoman for uninhibited hedonism and sexual freedom. However, Lovelace’s real story was sorrowfully different than her short-lived glamorous one as an actress. She was unable to get parts outside of the porn industry and was brutally beaten by Traynor for the entirety of their relationship, something we learn about half way into the film.

Lovelace skillfully portrays the romance of Chuck and Linda, who married when she was naive and easily influenced by his manipulative nature. Chuck quickly becomes controlling and violently abusive. Lovelace depicts Chuck convincing Linda to do porn, beating her viciously, including rape, forcing her into prostituting herself repeatedly, including at gunpoint, and even organizing for her to be raped by a group of men. The movie is difficult to watch during these times but is relentless and powerful in its portrayal, matching the unrelenting nature of Chuck’s abuse both in the film and in real life.

The film’s directors Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman made the very interesting and smart decision of composing the movie in two halves. In the movie’s first half, the viewer is shown parts of scenes with Linda and Chuck, portraying a loving, if controlling, relationship. The film’s second half shows the next parts of these scenes, this time seeing the truth – Chuck’s frightening abuse. This artistic choice gives the  movie a twist-filled nature and surprises those viewers, like myself, who did not know the true story of Lovelace and Traynor.

The movie features numerous big-name celebrities in featuring roles, with the list of actors on the DVD cover reaching 11 names long. Sharon Stone is perfect as Linda’s hardened, controlling mother with little patience and a cruel parenting style, basically driving Linda into Chuck’s arms. The always well-cast Robert Patrick plays Linda’s father, who hands off parenting decisions to his wife, much to his daughter’s detriment. Hank Azaria  plays the director of Deep Throatand Bobby Cannavale and Chris Noth are the mobsters who finance the movie. The O.C.’s Adam Brody and veteran character actress Debi Mazar are both charming adult film actors and Deep Throat co-stars Harry Reems  and Dolly Sharp. Juno Temple is vibrant as Linda’s childhood best friend who worries about her and James Franco is silly but likable in a stunt casting cameo role as Hugh Hefner. Even Chloe Sevigny gets her name on the DVD cover with her two-second role as a feminist reporter interviewing Linda, which deserved for Sevigny’s publicist to get a raise. 

Lovelace‘s epilogue shows Seyfried sporting a late 70s/early 80s look to portray Linda in 1980, during the publication of her famous autobiography, Ordeal. The movie shows Linda undergo a lie detector test, given by publishers, to ensure truthfulness in her book, which she naturally passes. By this time, Linda has remarried an average Joe and they have two children. We see Linda, in a waitress uniform, living a life of calm, stability and happiness. But Linda decided to write Ordeal in order to clear her chest and tell her story of overcoming horrific abuse, and give other abused women the strength to do so.

 The last scene of Lovelace entails the impressive splicing of Seyfried into the famous Lovelace/Phil Donahue interview after Ordeal‘s 1980 release. We see a strong, articulate Linda as she answers questions regarding her harrowing tale of the pursuit of happiness and the will to survive her abuse. Ordeal will go on to be an enormous literary success and its publication causes Lovelace to become a feminist icon and anti-porn activist until her death in 2002 from injuries sustained in a car accident.

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Throughout Lovelace, the hair, makeup and costuming allow viewers to be transported, with early-70s authenticity, into the era. Costume designer Karyn Wagner includes replicas throughout the film of some of Lovelace’s most famous looks, including a cut-out bathing suit similar to the one worn by Lovelace in Deep Throat.

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Wagner reported to the Hollywood Reporter that “there was a real 70s style. I took those silhouettes and toned down the colors, so you are still in the period but the shapes are more classic.” Wagner also stated that the main aspect of Linda’s story that Wagner wanted to convey was her helplessness and desperation. “I wanted her to look completely vulnerable and out of control of her own life.” For example, Wagner portrays this by dressing Seyfried in a white cotton eyelet dress for the scene at the Playboy mansion. “She had nothing that could armor her against the world. Traynor shopped for her; he told her what to wear, liked her in lace and never let her wear underwear so she was always on display,” Wagner said. “Linda’s vulnerability is what makes her story so accessible to an audience.”

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The DVD’s only special feature, “Behind Lovelace,” is an excellent behind-the-scenes featurette including interviews with the actors and filmmakers. I, personally, was eager to explore more about Lovelace and the productions of Deep Throat and Lovelace as soon as I finished the movie. “Behind Lovelace” was the perfect special feature to help me do so. However, I would have enjoyed more DVD extras, perhaps one on the film’s wardrobe and beauty choices or one detailing more Lovelace’s role as an anti-porn or feminist activist.

Lovelace skillfully reveals the dark reality behind the Deep Throat star’s tragic, yet ultimately triumphant, life. The movie takes itself very seriously, which at times gives the impression of campiness. But Lovelace‘s directing choices, powerful script and quality acting depict Lovelace’s story in an intense and captivating way, making it a film that is hard to take your eyes off of until the end credits roll.

3.5 of 5 stars