Director: Rob Epstein, Jeffrey Friedman
Studio: Millennium Films
Stars: Amanda Seyfried, Peter Sarsgaard, Sharon Stone
The new biopic Lovelace may be maddeningly skin deep, but Amanda Seyfried is unabashedly all in playing the starring role. Wide-eyed, touching, resilient, often nude, Seyfried of course plays Linda Lovelace, the then-21-year-old suburban girl next door from an uptight family who got swept up by a scummy hustler named Chuck Traynor, whom she married. The slick, smooth-talking Traynor pushed her into hooking, drugs and starring in 1972 for $1,200 in Deep Throat, an out-of-nowhere little porn movie that became a $600-million-grossing game changer and turned her into an internationally known adult film star.
The higher Lovelace climbed and the more money she made for Traynor, the lower he dragged her down—physically and mentally abusing her, running her celebrity into the ground, pathologically controlling her and very nearly killing her. Lovelace exposed the tragic, twisted outline of her descent into hell in her harrowing 1980 autobiography Ordeal; it’s also dissected in the riveting 2005 documentary Inside Deep Throat.
The dynamics of this 90-minute biomovie, directed by Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman (The Life and Times of Harvey Milk) from Andy Bellin’s screenplay, will also be familiar to those who recall the 1983 film about doomed model-actress Dorothy Stratten, Star 80, director Bob Fosse’s gritty, depressing and scathingly brilliant twist on A Star Is Born. Lovelace isn’t anywhere near that class: it’s made with intelligence and compassion, but it’s underdramatized and all too superficial. Aside from nice work from a big, gimmicky supporting cast that includes Sharon Stone, James Franco, Chris Noth, Wes Bentley, Chloë Sevigny, Bobby Cannavale and Hank Azaria, the movie features a hypnotic, hair-raising turn by Peter Sarsgaard as Traynor.
As loathsome and cringe-inducing as his character is, Sarsgaard teases out seductive, desperate and pathetic qualities that make Traynor all the more fascinating. He and Seyfried are almost reason enough to see Lovelace.