Lovelace, which stars Amanda Seyfried (Big Love, Les Miserables) as Linda Lovelace, and Peter Sarsgaard (An Education, Kinsey) as Linda’s husband Chuck Traynor, tells of the real story behind one of the most famous porn stars of all time and the film that made her a household name.
I don’t remember the first time I ever heard the name Linda Lovelace or of the film Deep Throat. What I do remember, however, is watching the film for the first time and thinking it was the most ridiculous thing I had ever seen. This is the movie that people called a classic? I thought it was cheesy, campy and definitely a movie of the 1970s. What was the big deal? It wasn’t until later on in my adult life that I learned that Deep Throat changed the porn industry and how those films were made because it was the first pornographic theatrical feature film to have a scripted story. Its star, Linda Lovelace, was virtually unknown before Deep Throat shot her into the stratosphere.
Lovelace begins with a young Linda Boreman (Ms. Lovelace’s real name) living with her strict Catholic parents. Her mother Dorothy (played by Sharon Stone, who is almost unrecognizable in this role) is the cold, harsh and authoritative one. She reminds her daughter of her past mistakes at every turn (Linda had a baby out of wedlock and had to give it up for adoption) and keeps a sharp eye on her. Her father John (played by Robert Patrick), on the other hand, is the softy who wants to keep the peace in the Boreman household.
Linda and her friend Patsy (played by Juno Temple) do what girls their age normally like to do: meet boys, have fun and go to parties. It’s at one of these parties that Linda meets Chuck Traynor, a smooth-talking, mustachioed guy who takes an immediate interest in Linda. As the two get closer, things at the Boreman home become so tense that Linda moves out of her parents’ house and in with Traynor, who she eventually marries. Linda is excited to have been liberated from her repressive parents and is happy to do whatever Chuck wants.
One of the things her husband wants is the thing that ultimately makes his wife famous: oral sex. Things are good, until they aren’t when Chuck’s money problems also become Linda’s. To make some fast money, Traynor takes his wife to see two porn producers, Butchie Peraino (played by Bobby Cannavale) and Anthony Romano (played by Chris Noth), who initially don’t see anything they like in the pretty Linda. Until they see what she can do, and then things move quickly from then on. Deep Throat, which was filmed in 17 days and directed by Gerry Damiano (played by the multi-talented Hank Azaria), becomes a hit almost immediately. Linda Boreman Traynor becomes Linda Lovelace, porn star.
Fast forward six years and Linda is sitting in front of Nat Laurendi (played by Eric Roberts) taking a polygraph test. She looks a bit worn and anxious. When Nat asks about her marriage to Chuck Traynor, Linda Lovelace’s story truly begins. Her time with her husband was one filled with beatings, sexual abuse, forced prostitution and other horrors. Chuck Traynor was a brutal man who kept a firm grip on his wife and her money, and did whatever was necessary to make sure Linda did what he commanded. At one point, Linda drives to her parents’ home, begging her mother to let her stay. But instead of offering her daughter sanctuary, Dorothy refuses, telling Linda she has to obey her husband. When Chuck calls looking for his wife, Dorothy gives her daughter up to suffer even more abuse from her son-in-law.
The performances that stood out for me in Lovelace were definitely those of Amanda Seyfried and Peter Sarsgaard. Their chemistry was great, especially during the second half of the film. I thought Amanda’s ability to show Linda’s transformation from shy girl-next-door to celebrity to battered woman pleasantly surprised me. Amanda’s ability was most telling during a scene where Linda is having publicity photos taken for Deep Throat. In the scene, Linda isn’t sure how to pose and is nervous, awkward. Thomas (played by Wes Bentley) decides to take a different approach and begins to ask Linda questions while taking her picture. Her answers not only help calm her down, but also reveal Linda’s dreams for the future and what she wants out of life. Amanda could have easily gone over the top in this film, but instead, she used just the right amount of emotion for her scenes, creating a Linda Lovelace that was more than just a name.
Peter Sarsgaard was outstanding in Lovelace. He was cruel, sadistic, manipulative and downright scary as Chuck Traynor. Peter has gone to the dark side in other roles (who can forget his homophobic killer in Boys Don’t Cry?), and it was nice to see him do it again. Based on what is known about Chuck Traynor and his relationship with Linda, Peter’s performance captured him completely. At times, Chuck could be charismatic and then turn into a frightening monster. He was very unpredictable and Peter was able to portray that convincingly.
Other notable performances were a funny Adam Brody as Harry Reems and Debi Mazar as Dolly, both who were Linda’s co-stars in Deep Throat, and James Franco as a smarmy Hugh Hefner.
Lovelace was a good film, but I wanted to know more about Linda Lovelace after she left the porn industry, not just the about events surrounding the release of her book Ordeal. Although there was mention of her becoming an anti-pornography advocate, I would have liked to see how that all unfolded instead of it just being an afterthought.
Lovelace was directed by Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman (Howl, The Celluloid Closet) and is in theaters now.
Photos courtesy of Radius-TWC.