January 24, 2013



There are any number of ways the story of Linda Lovelace and Deep Throat could be told to make a potentially fascinating movie, from the sociological to the political, the personal to the satiric.  The laziest–one might even say the most cowardly–would be to simply repeat the events as they were originally presented to the public with no point of view at all, and that, sadly, is the approach taken by directors Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman and screenwriter Andy Bellin in their new LOVELACE.

Linda Lovelace burst on the pop culture scene in 1972, when her feats of fellatio in Deep Throat made that movie not just just the most successful porn flick ever made, but one that was viewed by people like Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and joked about by Johnny Carson and Bob Hope.  At that time, Lovelace (that was the name of her Throat character; her real name was Linda Boreman) was presented as the cheerful public face of the new sexual freedom.  Several years later, she published a memoir revealing that she had been the victim of domestic abuse at the hands of her husband Chuck Traynor, and had been exploited by everyone involved in her pornographic success.  The film Lovelace does nothing but run through the same events twice:  in the movie’s first half, as a peppy sex comedy, with laughs earned from the Italian porno makers and their gangster financial backers, and then the same events shown again in the second half as, basically, a remake of Bob Fosse’s Star 80, with Traynor as the Eric Roberts character (in what’s probably a meta-gag, Roberts himself makes an appearance as the lie detector operator hearing Lovelace’s story of abuse in the second half), and Linda constantly being beaten and abused.  There’s no attempt to reconcile the two versions of Lovelace’s life, or to suggest how one Linda could have coexisted with the other in a contradictory but human way.

It doesn’t help that neither half of Lovelace is very good.  That’s not the fault of Amanda Seyfried, who plays both halves of the story with complete commitment, and who mostly manages to be convincing as a relatively innocent New Joisey girl out of her depth (although in the scenes that recreate–nonexplicitly–sequences from Deep Throat, Seyfried is more a good actress playing a bad one than one who’s believably bad).  There’s also capable supporting work by Bobby Cannavale, Hank Azaria and Chris Noth as the pornographers.  But Peter Sarsgaard, as Traynor, just gives us another version of the sleazoid character he’s been playing since at least Boys Don’t Cry in 1999, James Franco contributes perhaps the worst Hugh Hefner impersonation ever committed to film (clearly the movie’s lawyers reviewed his scenes with great care, and there’s only a softpedaled implication that he, too, abused Lovelace), it’s anyone’s guess what the filmmakers were thinking when they cast Adam Brody as Harry Reems, and Sharon Stone and Robert Patrick, as Linda’s parents, might as well have been posed with “American Gothic” clothing and props.

The movie’s recreation of the 1970s is done very much on the cheap, with little success or ingenuity in disguising that fact, and technical credits are no better than adequate.  But what makes Lovelace such an overwhelming disappointment is that given incredibly rich material (the 2005 documentary Inside Deep Throat provides some of the fascinating history that’s been left out), and a protagonist whose complexities could have been the stuff of great drama, the film has nothing whatsoever to say about any of it.  The people who made this movie should have just kept their mouths shut.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."