In all the arts – music and film especially – many sins can be forgiven if a work has heart. The Beatles’ chirpier songs, The Sound Of Music, most Country music, Sly Stallone’s original Rocky – all beloved by millions, and who cares why. They all have heart.

Amanda Seyfried as Linda Lovelace and Peter Sarsgaard as Chuck Traynor

Amanda Seyfried as Linda Lovelace and Peter Sarsgaard as Chuck Traynor

Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman’s Lovelace, screening as part of the 2013 Sydney Film Festival program, has a big heart. A simple story of the trials and tribulations of early 70s pornstar Linda Lovelace that doesn’t delve too deep beneath the skin of its characters, Lovelace pushes all the right emotional buttons – goodies, baddies, pain, suffering, triumph.

lovelace posterEx-US soap star Amanda Seyfried is nicely cast as the innocent Linda Boreman who is manoeuvered into acting in porn films by her slippery husband, Chuck Traynor – played with coked-up menace by Peter Sarsgaard. He finagles her a starring role in Deep Throat, where her cino-fellatio skills make it a massive hit – the “’Gone With The Wind’ of porn’. Pretty soon we see Hugh Hefner offering to make Linda (now Lovelace) a ‘real’ movie star.

That is the brief, meteoric version of her success. Andy Bellin’s script then doubles back and replays the story in finer detail – allowing the darker truths and violent pain behind the seemingly endless party to bleed through. (And this party has a great soundtrack – as in most films evoking the 70s, the music is almost as much a star as any of the leads).

But Linda Lovelace’s life was anything but a party. Shunned by her Catholic-hard mother – an unrecognisable Sharon Stone – bullied into degrading porn by Traynor, who beat her, terrorised her and pimped her out to ‘associates’ for hotel room gang-bangs, Lovelace suffered long and hard. In the short version, we see their wedding night as tender lovemaking; in the longer, later version we see this is only a prelude to Traynor violently sodomising her.

When she tries to escape to her parent’s house, her mother lectures her about obeying her husband and sends her back; when he beats her in the street, one of the policemen who pull up in a squad car asks her for her autograph before telling Traynor to take her home and ‘clean her up’; when she finally writes her memoirs (entitled Ordeal), the publisher makes her take a polygraph to see if she is telling the truth.

Sharon Stone

Sharon Stone

No one believes her; she doesn’t exist. It is a continuation of the idea that pornography is about power over the powerless. But because the movie is more about people than theory, the other idea here is that of survival.

Chloë Sevigny plays a jaded porn actress, Rebecca, who explains to the newbie Lovelace that after a few years she will need to develop other ‘skills’ in order to survive. Seeing the bruises on Linda’s thigh – black-and-blue fruits of Traynors’ beatings – she answers Linda’s limp excuse (‘I’m so clumsy’) with a knowing ‘Aren’t we all…’.

Chuck Traynor survives his own way, cruel and parasitic as it is. The Deep Throat filmmakers – played with oily, perma-tanned relish by Hank Azaria and Bobby Cannavale – survive their own way. Even the shady financier, Anthony Romano – Sex and The City’s Mr Big, Chris Noth – is a survivor. Although at different levels on its slippery slope, they are all scratching away at the same gold mountain to see what flakes off.

We can look at Lovelace and tut-tut about the objectification of women, and the whole dehumanising aspect of pornography in those Bad Olde Days. However, today, women’s heightened awareness of themselves and their potentialities seems to be countered by a gargantuan pornography industry that makes its 70s version look like a slightly goofy and almost adolescent Amateur Hour.

But that is not what Lovelace is about – the film chooses to leave these larger thoughts alone. The big beating heart of this movie is Linda’s story: one of survival. Linda Lovelace was one tough little nut that they didn’t crack and Lovelace tells her story beautifully.

Lovelace screens as part of the Sydney Film Festival, Saturday 15th June. http://sff.org.au/films-container/lovelace/

Published June 2013 on megaphoneoz.com

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Comments
  1. sixtyniner says:

    Reblogged this on foreplay copy cat and commented:
    remembering Linda born 10th January 1949…. thanks for sharing

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