In 1972—before the internet—Deep Throat was a phenomenon: the first scripted pornographic theatrical feature film, featuring a story, some jokes, and an unknown star, Linda Lovelace (Amanda Seyfried). Escaping a strict religious family, Linda discovered freedom and the high-life when she fell for and married charismatic hustler Chuck Traynor (Peter Sarsgaard). As Linda Lovelace she became an international sensation, fully inhabiting her new identity, Linda became an enthusiastic spokesperson for sexual freedom. Six years later she presented another, utterly contradictory, narrative to the world—and herself as the survivor of a far darker story.
Storyline: Our Reviewer's Take
When it comes to movies about the porn industry, particularly those covering the filmmaking years of the 1970s, I think most would agree that director Paul Thomas Anderson's Boogie Nights is the gold standard to which all other films should be compared. 'Lovelace' is a bit different than that film in that it's based on a true story (although 'Boogie Nights' Dirk Diggler was loosely based on John Holmes), but darn if it doesn't come close to capturing the look, feel, and style of Anderson's earlier movie.
Which is not to say it's a cheap rip-off or copycat. 'Lovelace' is very much its own movie, but it also feels like a nice companion piece to Anderson's film. We enjoyed 'Boogie Nights' because, despite some of the questionable activities the characters found themselves in, they all came across as very human and very relatable. That same vibe runs through almost every frame of 'Lovelace'.
I've never been a particularly big fan of Amanda Seyfried. Okay, I'll come out and confess it – I've downright disliked almost every performance she's given up until now. Needless to say, I didn't expect much from her going into 'Lovelace', and wondered if taking on the role of a porn star in a mainstream production like this one might be the act of an actress desperate to 're-invent' herself. However, Ms. Seyfried gives a performance that simply (excuse the pun) blew me away. I found her to be completely believable in the role, and her portrayal of Linda Lovelace totally won me over. She jumps from innocent to sexy to terrified throughout the course of the film, and there's not a false note in her performance. If there were any justice in Hollywood, Amanda would get an Oscar nomination for this movie…yes, she's that good.
Of course, Seyfried doesn't have to do all the heavy lifting on her own. 'Lovelace' is loaded with a who's who of character actors in Hollywood, each one of them portraying a real-life person that proves quite interesting to watch. First and foremost among these is Peter Sarsgaard as Linda's seemingly nice boyfriend, Chuck Traynor, who turns into her abusive husband. We also get Sharon Stone and Robert Patrick as Linda's strict parents, as well as Bobby Cannavale, Hank Azaria, and Chris Noth as the slick and (slightly) sleazy businessmen that bring Linda into the adult film business.
If there's one performance that doesn't ring true in 'Lovelace' (and prevented me from giving the movie an even higher rating than I did), it's that of James Franco, who shows up about half-way into the movie playing a young Hugh Hefner. Forget the fact that Franco is currently about 10 years younger than Hef would have been when he met Linda, the problem here is that Franco never seems to be playing anyone but himself – almost as if he were doing the filmmakers a favor by showing up on the set for a day or two of shooting. Thankfully, he's only in about five minutes of the film and it's not enough to ruin an otherwise entertaining flick.
One of the more interesting things about 'Lovelace' is the way the story unfolds on screen. The first half of the film is almost too lighthearted, as Linda meets Chuck, falls in love, moves away from her parents, and eventually gets involved in porn after Chuck gets in some financial and legal troubles. Although there are a few hints here and there that Chuck is abusive to her, it's never put in the forefront. Then the movie jumps ahead in time to a polygraph an older Linda is required to take for the publisher of a book she has written. Now the film goes back to events we've seen before and fills in the missing pieces. We see that Linda isn't happy at all, and Chuck has been quite abusive to her. While 'Lovelace' focuses on how Traynor manipulated, used, and degraded Linda for his own personal needs, it doesn't do the same to the porn industry itself. Most movies like these would show the industry as just as bad as Linda's husband, but 'Lovelace' never puts the blame for Linda's issues on pornography itself – although it certainly doesn't glamorize the industry either.
The only problem with 'Lovelace' is convincing others that it's worth their time and money to see. As one might suspect, 'Lovelace' didn't get much of a theatrical run and critical reviews to this point (for a reason I just can't see) have been rather mixed. That’s a shame, since 'Lovelace' deserves a whole lot more love. Amanda Seyfried is so good in this movie that you'll really be doing yourself a disservice if you don't at least give it a rental. I, of course, have placed this release in my permanent collection…and that would be a first as far as Ms. Seyfried is concerned.
The Blu-Ray: Vital Disc Stats
'Lovelace' comes to Blu-ray in a standard Elite keepcase, housing the single 25GB Blu-ray with no other inserts. The disc itself is front-loaded with trailers for the documentaries '20 Feet From Stardom' and 'Cutie and the Boxer'. The main menu consists of a video montage of scenes from the film, along with selections across the bottom of the screen.
'Lovelace' was shot in Super 16, allowing the movie – which is set primarily in the 1970s – to pretty much look like it was filmed during that time period. As a result, there's both a heavy grain and an overall softness to the look of the movie. Colors and skin tones maintain a warm and over-saturated look throughout. Although the film doesn't provide the 'pop' in high definition that many might expect, this is a faithful rendering of the filmmakers' intention, and the fact that the movie looks grainy and over-saturated helps give the movie the historical feel that it needs.
Although the movie has been shot to give it an 'older' look, there's no noticeable dirt, defects, or other problems with the print and no 'faux' dirt or scratches have been added to make it look older (that might be done in, say, a Tarantino or Rodriguez flick). The film is presented in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio.
Given the fact that the filmmakers went for a retro look to the movie, one might expect they did the same with the sound. However, the 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track for 'Lovelace' is just as clear and crisp as you'll find on any other recent mainstream release. There are plenty of classic tunes in 'Lovelace' (particularly during the first-half), and one's speakers will come alive during these sequences, although the audio is never overbearing, nor do the musical tracks ever drown out the spoken dialogue. While the track sounds nice in terms of the mix between soundtrack and the spoken word, there's little (at least noticeably) going on in terms of directionality. So while the audio track is solid, it never feels quite as immersive as it should. Still, with no glitches, dropouts, or other issues, the audio here proves to be above-average in quality.
While the 5.1 track is the only audio option, subtitles are also available in both English SDH and Spanish.
- Behind 'Lovelace' (HD, 14 min.) – This rather brief behind-the-scenes look at the making of 'Lovelace' is sadly the only bonus feature this release provides. Still, it's a nice look at the creative process, particularly when it comes to directors Rob Epstein and Jerry Freidman, who were primarily documentary filmmakers before tackling this movie.
One of the real surprises of 2013, 'Lovelace' is full of good performances (particularly from its lead actress) and turns out to be highly watchable and entertaining. Despite the fact that this Blu-ray release provides very little in terms of supplements, this is a movie that deserves a spot in one's collection. Recommended.
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