Directors Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman have chosen 2013 as the year to release their psychological study Lovelace, which examines the life and circumstances of Deep Throat actress Linda Lovelace. 2013 is a year in which the highest box office draws, Iron Man 3and Fast & Furious 6, either depict stylised action or caricatures of violence along with Kick-Ass 2 recently arriving in theatres. Viewers may question if this is an appropriate time to release a biography which chronicles real-life horror. After all, Linda is a flesh and blood figure who hasn’t been portrayed on-screen since Patricia Arquette’s turn in Deeper than Deep.
The film opens in the early 1970s and depicts Linda’s, also known to attentive readers of her birth certificate as Linda Susan Boreman, transformation from a respectable religious American to a self-proclaimed symbol of sexual liberation by 1972. As the decade progresses Linda emerges from the negative consequences of her behaviour more starry-eyed than Patrick Moore’s relatives, a victim of the sleaze and avarice of a decade also known for Gary Dahl’s The Pet-Rock toy. Self-advancement wasn’t just for businessmen and women in the next decade and the directors remind us that others were in charge of Linda’s destiny.
Amanda Seyfried uses Linda as an opportunity to play a profound female character, which she has achieved before as Cosette in Les Misérables. The actress displays the different sides of Linda’s personality with aplomb and interacts well with Peter Sarsgaard, who plays her husband Chuck Traynor as a deplorable and brutish figure. Sarsgaard plays him with raw power and bravely doesn’t attempt to hide his negative aspects, but contradictorily acts as Linda’s lover, protector and prisoner. Juno Temple’s Patsy is an ample opportunity for the British actress to gain more exposure in American film after The Dark Knight Rises, but James Franco’s Hugh Hefner is imbued with the grace of a man who flitters around a film premiere like a Madame social butterfly. Chloë Sevigny plays a feminist Journalist in a tantalising but quick tangent that shows the ideological attitudes towards the film, which the film-makers should have done more with.
The film isn’t solely focused on studying Linda, particularly in regards to the filmic recreation of the 1970s. Set decorator David Smith, production designer William Arnold, costume designer Karyn Wagner and director of photographer Eric Edwards all contribute to the visual look of the film. There may be Lester Bangs look-a-likes that permeate the film, but this is a trifling matter in a film with a lack of typical 1970s visual tropes like disco balls and shiny suits.
Epstein and Friedman’s effort can be appreciated by not recreating the 1970s as a series of endless clichés. The film depicts an initially innocent, simultaneously fortunate and unlucky girl who finds self-expression in her own albeit unconventional way. It is difficult to entirely sympathise with a young lady who enters an alliance with a man who is clearly despicable, but the audience becomes attached to this unlikely feminist icon, turning Linda Lovelace into a symbol of empowerment.