Saturday, January 26, 2013

Sundance ’13: Lovelace

She was paid $1,250 for a film that reportedly grossed $600,000,000 and that paltry sum was entirely pocketed by her husband-manager.  That might sound like the deals musicians usually get, but she was the original porn star, whose cautionary tale is told in Rob Epstein & Jeffrey Friedman’s Lovelace (clip here), screening today as part of the 2013 Sundance Film Festival.

Linda Boreman had the profound misfortune of marrying Chuck Traynor, an aspiring pornographer who could turn on the disingenuous charm when he wanted to.  Submissive by nature, Boreman, under the stage-name Linda Lovelace, was forced to perform in explicit films, including Deep Throat, which surely everyone reading this only knows as the inspiration for the code name of Woodward & Bernstein’s Watergate source.  However, at the time it was quite zeitgeisty, becoming a major pop culture phenomenon of the 1970’s.

Initially, Epstein & Friedman portray the dirty movie business relatively benignly, but in the second half of the film they reveal the physical and emotional abuse Traynor employed to bend her to his will.  Much has been made of the decision to cut Sarah Jessica Parker’s appearance as Gloria Steinem, implying the film ignores Lovelace’s later anti-porn activism (like say ending Schindler’s List when the German industrialist decided to open a factory exploiting camp labor), but this really is not the case. 

Frankly, cutting SJP as Steinem, sounds like a perfectly defensible call from multiple standpoints.  Regardless, the film clearly casts Lovelace as the victim of Traynor and culminates with a cathartic media appearance in which she tells all.  Hardly another Boogie Nights, porn is bad in this film, plain and simple.

It is hard to tell from her Wikipedia page, but the brunetted Amanda Seyfried looks like an okay but not uncanny likeness for the tragic Lovelace.  She radiates vulnerability, almost suggesting Lovelace was mired in a state of arrested development.  Peter Sarsgaard’s Traynor might just the most unsettling white trash figure seen on film in years.  With his mullet and tank tops going on, he might be the least pleasant to look at too. 

However, much of the ensemble seems to think they are in some groovy period piece, such as James Franco’s blink-and-you-miss-him appearance as Hugh Hefner.  Hard on the heels of About Cherry, Franco also produced two other Sundance selections this year: kink and Interior. Leather Bar.  Hmm, don’t you wonder what he collects?  Still, T2’s Robert Patrick has some fine moments as Lovelace’s confused ex-cop father.  Conversely, though quite unrecognizable, Sharon Stone is still way over the top as her shrewish caricature of a mother.

Despite its tonal inconsistencies, Lovelace mostly feels earnest and well intentioned.  It does not make viewers curious to check out Deep Throat, which is a real test of such a potentially sensationalistic film.  Former documentarians Epstein and Friedman keep it all moving along relatively briskly enough.  The end product is highly watchable with little resulting guilt, but hardly essential.  For those with a deep personal interest in the subject, Lovelace screens again today (1/26) in Park City as a 2013 Sundance Premiere.