PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.


'Lovelace' and Relative Innocence

If even half of what this movie claims is true, the real Chuck Traynor was indeed an awful guy. But presenting him as pure boogeyman here feels a little too easy.


Director: Rob Epstein, Jeffrey Friedman
Cast: Amanda Seyfried, Peter Sarsgaard, Sharon Stone, Robert Patrick, Hank Azaria, Bobby Cannavale, Chris Noth, Juno Temple
Rated: R
Studio: Weinstein Company
Year: 2013
US date: 2013-08-09 (Limited release)

Amanda Seyfried is capable of such open-faced freshness that she could make a porn star look and sound like America's Sweetheart. That distinction, as it turns out, is key to her playing Linda Lovelace, star of Deep Throat, the 1972 X-rated movie that gave pornography a mainstream foothold in American culture. As Seyfried plays her in Lovelace, Linda is a troubled girl next door with a killer smile.

Following Linda from her early-'70s pre-Deep Throat days to the publication of Ordeal, her anti-pornography book about her career in 1980, Lovelace makes a case for the connections between her troubles and her charms. As a recently transplanted teenager living in Florida with restrictive parents (played by a pair of famous faces from the early '90s, Robert Patrick and Sharon Stone), Linda's life changes when she meets Chuck Traynor (Peter Sarsgaard) at a roller disco. Chuck treats her to an adolescent's idea of grown-up dating: long nights out, parties on a beach, meeting her parents. Before the latter, he bets her that by the end of the night, her mother will refer to him as a "nice young man." He's right, more or less, but it doesn't matter to Linda's mother, who refuses to crack a smile. And it doesn't begin to describe Chuck.

His relationship with Linda is fraught from the start, and eventually turns into a marriage, one that benefits Chuck most plainly. He coaxes her into sexual experimentation and soon makes home movies that double as audition footage for porn-makers Jerry Damiano (Hank Azaria) and Butchie Peraino (Bobby Cannavale). Bankrolled by Anthony Romano (Chris Noth), the team films Deep Throat, a hardcore sex comedy focused on the titular sexual act, reframed as the infamous audacious gimmick. It becomes a cultural sensation.

To this point, the movie provides a quick outline of Lovelace's rise to her stardom-like notoriety; in its most interesting structural trick, the movie then circles back and fills in some additional details about the relationship between Linda and Chuck. He has already appeared sleazy and opportunistic, but in the flashbacks we see ever more abusive and controlling behavior lurking at the edges of previous scenes. With these revelations, Lovelace becomes a narrative about Linda's need to wriggle out from under the thumb of her lousy husband.

If even half of what the movie claims is true, the real Chuck Traynor was indeed an awful guy. But presenting him as a boogeyman also feels a little too easy. Compared to Chuck, the rest of the movie's pornographers come off like regular, sometimes amusing fellows (Damiano, wondering if Linda is too wholesome for porn, compares her to a "sexy Raggedy Ann"). Their levelheaded business sense makes it seem like the movie regards Chuck's greatest sin as the smallness of his thinking: he holds out to make cheap Linda Lovelace blow-up dolls rather than just signing her on for a lucrative Deep Throat 2 (a film that Lovelace did actually make, two years after the original, but doesn't receive much acknowledgment here), stalling her career.

The relative innocence of the Deep Throat team and the relentless sunniness of Seyfried's Lovelace bring to mind the wide-eyed first half of Boogie Nights, with Sarsgaard's Traynor single-handedly providing the ugly downward spiral that follows. But Lovelace recalls the arc of Boogie Nights (as well as other showbiz biopics) without matching that movie's momentum; instead, it contains fascinating details, and appealing '70s texture in the grainy cinematography, without telling much of a story.

That story further suffers when directors Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman and screenwriter Andy Bellin skip from Linda's break with Chuck to her post-porn publication of Ordeal. Those intervening years seem to be meaningful to Linda, if not so sensational as her time in the spotlight. But the movie indulges in simple cause and effect that seems ripped straight and solemnly from the pages of her book: Chuck was awful, forced her to do porn, and she came to hate it.

This simple trajectory is complicated somewhat by Seyfried and Sarsgaard's effective performances. But their roles as victim and victimizer are limited by definition, never allowing either actor to exploit their very different and well-known alien qualities: Seyfried, with her saucer eyes, looks not just happy but desperate to feel happy, while Sarsgaard suggests a man always scheming, but never actually thinking ahead. Their performances hint at hidden emotions -- depths that Lovelace doesn't plumb.


Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.





'A Peculiar Indifference' Takes on Violence in Black America

Pulitzer Prize finalist Elliott Currie's scrupulous investigation of the impacts of violence on Black Americans, A Peculiar Indifference, shows the damaging effect of widespread suffering and identifies an achievable solution.


20 Songs From the 1990s That Time Forgot

Rather than listening to Spotify's latest playlist, give the tunes from this reminiscence of lost '90s singles a spin.


Delightful 'Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day' Is Good Escapism

Now streaming on Amazon Prime, Bharat Nalluri's 2008 romantic comedy, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, provides pleasant respite in these times of doom and gloom.


The 10 Best Horror Movie Remakes

The horror genre has produced some remake junk. In the case of these ten treats, the update delivers something definitive.


Flirting with Demons at Home, or, When TV Movies Were Evil

Just in time for Halloween, a new Blu-ray from Kino Lorber presents sparkling 2K digital restorations of TV movies that have been missing for decades: Fear No Evil (1969) and its sequel, Ritual of Evil (1970).


Magick Mountain Are Having a Party But Is the Audience Invited?

Garage rockers Magick Mountain debut with Weird Feelings, an album big on fuzz but light on hooks.


Aalok Bala Revels in Nature and Contradiction on EP 'Sacred Mirror'

Electronic musician Aalok Bala knows the night is not a simple mirror, "silver and exact"; it phases and echoes back, alive, sacred.


Clipping Take a Stab at Horrorcore with the Fiery 'Visions of Bodies Being Burned'

Clipping's latest album, Visions of Bodies Being Burned, is a terrifying, razor-sharp sequel to their previous ode to the horror film genre.


Call Super's New LP Is a Digital Biosphere of Insectoid and Otherworldly Sounds

Call Super's Every Mouth Teeth Missing is like its own digital biosphere, rife with the sounds of the forest and the sounds of the studio alike.


Laura Veirs Talks to Herself on 'My Echo'

The thematic connections between these 10 Laura Veirs songs and our current situation are somewhat coincidental, or maybe just the result of kismet or karmic or something in the zeitgeist.


15 Classic Horror Films That Just Won't Die

Those lucky enough to be warped by these 15 classic horror films, now available on Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection and Kino Lorber, never got over them.


Every Song on the Phoenix Foundation's 'Friend Ship' Is a Stand-Out

Friend Ship is the Phoenix Foundation's most personal work and also their most engaging since their 2010 classic, Buffalo.


Kevin Morby Gets Back to Basics on 'Sundowner'

On Sundowner, Kevin Morby sings of valleys, broken stars, pale nights, and the midwestern American sun. Most of the time, he's alone with his guitar and a haunting mellotron.


Lydia Loveless Creates Her Most Personal Album with 'Daughter'

Given the turmoil of the era, you might expect Lydia Loveless to lean into the anger, amplifying the electric guitar side of her cowpunk. Instead, she created a personal record with a full range of moods, still full of her typical wit.


Flowers for Hermes: An Interview with Performing Activist André De Shields

From creating the title role in The Wiz to winning an Emmy for Ain't Misbehavin', André De Shields reflects on his roles in more than four decades of iconic musicals, including the GRAMMY and Tony Award-winning Hadestown.


The 13 Greatest Horror Directors of All Time

In honor of Halloween, here are 13 fascinating fright mavens who've made scary movies that much more meaningful.


British Jazz and Soul Artists Interpret the Classics on '​Blue Note Re:imagined'

Blue Note Re:imagined provides an entrance for new audiences to hear what's going on in British jazz today as well as to go back to the past and enjoy old glories.


Bill Murray and Rashida Jones Add Another Shot to 'On the Rocks'

Sofia Coppola's domestic malaise comedy On the Rocks doesn't drown in its sorrows -- it simply pours another round, to which we raise our glass.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.