Screened at the Provincetown International Film Festival – June 22, 2013
Release Date: January 22, 2013 (Sundance Film Festival)
Runtime: 92 minutes
Studio: RADiUS – TWC
Director: Rob Epstein, Jeffrey Friedman
Cast: Amanda Seyfried; Peter Sarsgaard; Sharon Stone; Chris Noth; Hank Azaria; Robert Patrick; Bobby Cannavale; Eric Roberts; Juno Temple; Debi Mazar; Adam Brody; Wes Bentley; James Franco
American porn legend Linda Lovelace gets a loving tribute from “The Celluloid Closet” directors Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman and an all-star cast.
Amanda Seyfried once again flexes her considerable acting muscle portraying one Linda Boreman, a carefree, if not a little prudish South Florida young woman who in the early 1970s would become the most famous name in porn, all stemming from a little movie called “Deep Throat.” Linda and her parents, super-strict mom, Dorothy (Sharon Stone), and more easy-going dad, John (Robert Patrick), move to South Florida from Yonkers to start a new life after Linda gives birth to a baby out of wedlock. Things seem to be going well enough, with Linda and her girl friend, Patsy (Juno Temple), hanging out at the local roller skating rink and behaving like typical teenagers (Linda’s 21, but whatever). One night at the roller rink, Linda and Patsy make the acquaintance of one Chuck Traynor (Peter Sarsgaard), a bit of a low-life troll, but attractive and gentlemanly – at least at first. He even passes the test with Linda’s parents.
Soon, Chuck and Linda are dating and before long, are husband and wife. Along the way, Chuck fatefully introduces Linda to the pleasures of oral sex, an act that will make Linda famous the world over. Desperate for money, Chuck manages to arrange a screen test for Linda in New York City for director Gerard Damiano (Hank Azaria) and the rest is history.
What I liked about this movie is that, unlike the recent “Hitchcock,” this movie didn’t shift the focus from Linda-Chuck to the making of “Deep Throat” and back again. Yes, much of the story occurs during the production of “Deep Throat,” but the center of attention is always kept on the relationship between Linda and Chuck, who becomes Linda’s Svengali, eventually forcing her into prostitution due to her name recognition. This aspect, and the 70s nudie milieu, recalls Bob Fosse’s “Star 80,” and Eric Roberts’ (who makes an appearance here) Paul Snider exerting increasing control over Mariel Hemingway’s Dorothy Stratten. (Interestingly, Hugh Hefner, via James Franco, makes a creepy appearance here.) The more Linda tries to free herself from Chuck’s grip, the more impossible it begins to seem. One disturbing scene has Linda literally fleeing down the street from Chuck when they serendipitously encounter two police officers. Despite Linda’s obvious fear and clear bruises on her face, the cops release her to her husband and ask for her autograph, which Linda is afraid not to give with Chuck standing over her. Eventually, Linda reaches out to “Deep Throat” financier, Tony Romano (a terrific Chris Noth), who has always sort of been on her side, and is able to escape.
Epstein, Friedman and Seyfried create an extremely sympathetic portrait of Lovelace and the movie, despite its setting, never veers into exploitation. Seyfried was a good casting choice for Linda Lovelace and she handles herself like a consummate pro in several difficult scenes. Sarsgaard, in my opinion, was good, but tended to be a little too “actor-ly,” as Chuck Traynor in some parts. You know, the coke binges, frantic phone calls, crazy rants, etc. Sharon Stone was wonderful as Lovelace’s old school mother, especially during a late night scene where her daughter begs to come home for a while to seek refuge from Chuck’s beatings. Her rejection of Linda is heartless, but Stone manages to remind us that this was a different time and that she believed a woman should stand by her man at all costs.
I was afraid that, given the cast, this movie would be a circumstance of “Let’s find the famous face!” It’s a testament to Epstein and Friedman’s careful direction that they never allow the actors to overwhelm the story and cheapen it. That said, lots of famous faces show up: the aforementioned Sharon Stone, Robert Patrick, James Franco, Chris Noth and Hank Azaria, as well as Bobby Cannavale, Adam Brody (as Harry Reems, Linda’s “Deep Throat” co-star), Debi Mazar, Wes Bentley and Chloe Sevigny.
The movie has a nice sense of time and place, which will, again because of its setting, remind many of Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Boogie Nights.” This story, however, doesn’t examine the industry as a whole so much as a woman who happened to work within that industry, so the similarity is all surface. All below-the-line credits are exceptional.