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'Lovelace' review: Taking Linda seriously

Amanda Seyfried and James Franco in "Lovelace."

Amanda Seyfried and James Franco in "Lovelace." Credit: Dale Robinette

Pornography is everywhere these days, and not just on your laptop. It's become mainstream thanks to name-brand stars like James Deen and Sacha Grey, and even Shia LaBeouf is making a supposedly all-real film called "Nymphomaniac."

Linda Lovelace, the subject of the new biopic "Lovelace," helped bring us to this point with her 1972 film "Deep Throat." That 61-minute cheapie unexpectedly became a cultural phenomenon, a "must-see" that even respectable papers had to review. It turned Lovelace, born Linda Boreman in the Bronx, into the first mainstream porn celebrity.

But in her 1980 memoir, "Ordeal," Lovelace claimed that her husband, Chuck Traynor, forced her into pornography at gunpoint, beat her and even pimped her out to men. She later became an anti-pornography spokeswoman and settled briefly in Center Moriches to raise a family before dying in 2002 after a car accident. It's this story "Lovelace" chooses to tell.

Starring an impressively tough Amanda Seyfried as in the title role and a mesmerizingly creepy Peter Sarsgaard as Traynor, "Lovelace" benefits from some fine acting, including an unrecognizable Sharon Stone as Lovelace's unpleasant mother and James Franco as a dead-on Hugh Hefner. Writer Andy Bellin and directors Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman deserve credit for handling a snigger-worthy subject -- Lovelace's particular talent -- with sensitivity. There are also some great period details of the 1970s.

Yet "Lovelace" isn't very illuminating. It chooses the most salable narrative -- the innocent led to ruin -- but ignores some troubling contradictions. Lovelace's earlier, sex-positive autobiography isn't mentioned, nor are her short films, which belie the movie's suggestion that she was a novitiate on "Deep Throat." This material wouldn't undermine Lovelace, but add complexity to her story.

Somewhere between sexual hedonist, slave girl and born-again Christian is the real Lovelace, who was probably not so easily pigeonholed. This movie is short on nuance, but at least it treats Lovelace with a respect she didn't often find in her difficult life.

PLOT The story of adult film star Linda Lovelace, who helped pornography go mainstream with her 1972 hit "Deep Throat."

RATED R (nudity, sexual situations, violence, language)

CAST Amanda Seyfried, Peter Sarsgaard, Chris Noth


BOTTOM LINE A sensitive and respectful movie, but it also chooses to ignore its heroine's complex and contradictory story. Well-acted and artfully told, but unilluminating.

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