Synopsis: The story of Linda Lovelace, who is used and abused by the porn industry at the behest of her coercive husband, before taking control of her life.
The last 12 months has seen an increased level of publicity and discussion about access to pornography and it’s effects on how society, particularly the current and next generations of young men view sex. So it felt an appropriate time to watch a film studying the life and relationships of Linda Lovelace, possibly the most famous porn star and the public face of the sometimes exploitative realities of pornography. After their brilliant Alan Ginsberg biopic, Howl, Rob Epstein and Jeffery Friedman proved themselves adept at weaving character rich stories centred around figures battling for one reason or another with the broader social issues of sex. For Ginsberg it was being gay. For Lovelace it was being the publicly acceptable face of an industry she was coerced into via an abusive husband (a marvellously mustachioed Peter Sarsgaard) and ultimately wanted no part of.
For those of us who weren’t born in to the digital/internet revolution (I’m 30 so can still remember waiting for boobs to download line by line on my dial up modem) but have spent a fair chunk of the formative years caught in it’s wave, it’s easy to forget a time when porn wasn’t instantly accessible in it’s seemingly endless amounts. Back in the 70’s, when VHS was yet to even take off, local porn cinemas were sticky floored dens of seedy activity, bathed in a cloud of sweat and shame. After being convinced by her husband and a team of equally loathsome misogynists to take a role in a low budget porno, Lovelace, with her big eyes and natural (ahem) talents found herself inadvertently a mainstream crossover sensation. Her name became synonymous with sex. Deepthroat, the now infamous name of her one and only film, took $600m at the box office (adjusted for inflation) and spawned a new term in the social lexicon. She appeared on talk shows, nearly inspired a line of lifelike dolls and became the darling of the adult industry. And then as soon as she came (no pun intended) she disappeared eventually becoming an active voice for increased awareness of violence against women and an outspoken activist against porn. Given the abuse she was subjected to, this is hardly surprising. All in all she actively worked in the porn industry for 11 days and was paid $2500. Someone got very rich from Deepthroat. Linda Lovelace did not.
The story of Linda Lovelace is ultimately a tragic and eye opening one, albeit one which has been explored a number of times previously in more depth. With it’s ensemble cast and solid performances it never quite feels the sum of it’s parts. Paul Thomas Anderson’s Boogie Nights (1997), which had an equally impressive ensemble cast and charted the rise, fall and rise again of the porn industry in Los Angeles’ San Fernando Valley, is a far superior movie which asks similar questions with more interesting results. The fault seems to lie with Epstein and Friedman focussing on too many characters and the circus that followed the film’s release, rather than the longterm impact on Lovelace which is arguably more intriguing than the history of Deepthroat. Ultimately it plays out as an above average TV movie of the week; a lot of style but just short of substance.
Conclusion: Never quite the sum of it’s parts, but worth seeing as an introduction into the life and times of Linda Lovelace. There will be little here though for anyone who has seen Inside Deep Throat
Cast: Amanda Seyfried, Peter Sarsgaard, Sharon Stone, James Franco, Hank Azaria, Juno Temple, Chris Noth