Lovelace

Amanda Seyfried as Linda Lovelace in Lovelace

 

A movie for every day of the year – a good one

 

 

12 March

 

Ron Jeremy born, 1953

On this day in 1953, the porn star Ronald Jeremy Hyatt was born, in Queens, New York, to a physicist father and a book editor mother. He studied acting and education at Queens College and City University, New York, and went on to become a teacher in special education. His heart lay in acting, so he left teaching to pursue his dream, working in several Off-Broadway productions before starting to supplement his income in porn movies after a girlfriend sent a photo of him to Playgirl. In the days before Viagra, Ron gained a renown for always being able to perform. This, and his work ethic – he’s in the Guinness Book of World Records for most appearances in adult films – gained him the sobriquet “The Hardest (Working) Man in Showbiz”, also the title of his autobiography. He got his other nickname, “the hedgehog”, for other reasons.

 

 

 

Lovelace (2013, dir: Rob Epstein, Jeffrey Friedman)

If there is a porn industry fairytale myth, then Lovelace tells it – how the nice sweet virginal girl from nowheresville became a rampaging star in the industry. The film that made Linda Lovelace famous – Deep Throat – told the same story, about a sweet young thing who just happened to have a clitoris in her throat. Hey ho. Lovelace follows Linda (Amanda Seyfried) from chaste Catholic girl from Yonkers, New York, to pole position in the porn biz, telling us how she was picked up by a dastardly svengali (Peter Sarsgaard), groomed by various cheeses in the biz (special mention to Chris Noth as a crappy producer and Hank Azaria as a crappy director), treated fairly badly, then treated badly some more. Lovelace was the first porn star to cross over and become mainstream enough for Bob Hope to use her as material in his primetime TV routines, and the film has a lock on the look and feel of the era – late 60s/early 70s – catching the clothes, decor and attitudes like a film that’s watched Boogie Nights, which this film is obviously indebted to. If Lovelace the woman eventually called foul, and spent the latter half of her life insisting that she’d been largely hoodwinked into becoming the most visible and famous porn star who had ever existed, then the film essentially calls foul on the 1970s, pointing out that sexual permissiveness was a great thing for men, but lousy for women. Linda’s protestations were always suspect – anything to make a buck, I always thought. And so are the film’s, which claims to be following Linda Lovelace the human being. But though it lists her in the closing credits by her married name, Linda Marchiano, the film is interested in her only as Lovelace the porn star. Like the plot in a porn film, this aspect of the film is bogus. But it’s pretty good bogus: Seyfried is a wide-eyed wonder as Linda, the support cast is uniformly excellent, and co-directors Epstein and Friedman pull out all the film-school how-to books reconstructing 1970s shooting styles – the dolly shots, filtration, lenses and so on. And did I mention that Seyfried takes her clothes off a lot?

 

 

Why Watch?

 

  • Evokes the 1970s of oysters, cocaine and champagne
  • An unrecognisable Sharon Stone as Linda Lovelace’s mother
  • James Franco just about getting away with it as Hugh Hefner
  • Seyfried’s go-for-broke performance

 

© Steve Morrissey 2014

 

 

Conspiracy – at Amazon

 

 

 

 

Lovelace

Peter Sarsgaard and Amanda Seyfried in Lovelace

 

 

Amanda Seyfried has a spectacular rack and, gents, you get plenty of it in this biopic about Linda Lovelace the 1970s deep throat queen who unwittingly did more than most to make porn legit. Amanda Seyfried… rack… unwittingly. Those are the key words from that sentence and of this film, a well made, deeply period piece that would have us believe that it’s on the side of the unwitting, naïve Bronx Catholic girl born Linda Boreman – who went on to become the star of Deep Throat, the first porn film to screen in mainstream theatres – while all the time devoting 90 per cent of screen time, and 99 per cent of dramatic weight to her as Lovelace.

I point this out not to wag the finger, but because the film is doing what Lovelace herself did – after leaving porn she became a loud voice against the industry, a campaigner whose “yes I did” would swing to “no I didn’t” so frequently that you wonder whether she might not have cared either way, just so long as she was turning a buck.

The plot? Well, it’s Boogie Nights in all but name – the money, the guys in charge, the ostentatious consumption, the cocaine. That and the Gretchen Moll Betty Page film – nice young girl from nowhere is inveigled into doing all manner of bad things by all manner of bad people. Chief baddie in the Lovelace story is Chuck Traynor, the sleaze who bewitched Lovelace into appearing in her first porn film, where it was discovered that she had a huge gift for fellatio, a poor gag reflex. Peter Sarsgaard plays Traynor, and he’s done so many similar roles now that he knows how to pitch bad that it’s just about sympathetic – this guy is just a bit adrift morally, rather than out and out wicked.

In fact one of the many nice things to be said about this movie is how good Seyfried’s support actors are – Chris Noth finally does something to write home about as a shitty movie producer; Hank Azaria does a Hank Azaria turn as a flaky director; James Franco is just about believable as a young Hugh Hefner. Special mention must also be made of Sharon Stone as Lovelace’s strict, god-fearing mother. Stone is so believable as a woman in the grip of a rigid faith, yet struggling with motherlove that it was only when the credits finally came up that an entire film of “who is that?” was finally laid to rest.

As with many films right now, Lovelace sets about settling scores with the 1970s, with the boomers, with the let-it-all-hang-out philosophy and how that meant a rough deal for women, more often than not. A generation ago there would have been no truck with the character of Lovelace’s mother. Here, though she’s not exactly carried shoulder high for a lap of honour, her brand of morality does get a sympathetic hearing.

As for the rest of it, it’s a symphony of exquisite period production design, some very funny jokes at the expense of 1970s porn, Seyfried’s frequently unclothed body and those big, big eyes of hers, brimming with liquid naiveté. Seyfried is really quite remarkable as Lovelace. But in spite of Seyfried’s stamp on this, and the film’s title, it isn’t actually about Linda at all. On this it really is, foolishly, following the line she took in her mea non culpa post-porn autobiography, Ordeal. According to Ordeal, Linda wasn’t the agent of her own fortune or misfortune. In fact she wasn’t any sort of agent at all. So who’s the film about then?

 

© Steve Morrissey 2013