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Porn creeps exploit a lost soul in well-made but grim ‘Lovelace’

This film publicity image released by RADIUS-TWC shows Peter Sarsgaard as Chuck Traynor left AmandSeyfried as LindLovelace 'Lovelace.' The film

This film publicity image released by RADIUS-TWC shows Peter Sarsgaard as Chuck Traynor, left, and Amanda Seyfried as Linda Lovelace in "Lovelace." The film opens nationwide on Aug. 9. (AP Photo/RADIUS-TWC, Dale Robinette) ORG XMIT: NYET919

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‘LOVELACE’ ★★★

Linda Lovelace Amanda Seyfried

Chuck Traynor Peter Sarsgaard

Gerard Damiano Hank Azaria

Butchie Peraino Bobby Cannavale

Anthony Romano Chris Noth

Dorothy Boreman Sharon Stone

John Boreman Robert Patrick

Radius-TWC presents a film directed by Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman and written by Andy Bellin. Running time: 92 minutes. Rated R (for strong sexual content, nudity, language, drug use and some domestic violence). Opens Friday at AMC River East 21 and South Barrington 30, and on video on demand.

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Updated: September 10, 2013 6:06AM



Set in the 1970s, when most telephones were attached to walls, most television sets were giant boxy devices delivering three or four programming choices at a time and you couldn’t see genuine porn unless you bought a magazine or skulked into a scuzzy theater, “Lovelace” plays like a slice of ancient history.

It’s also a sobering, necessary reminder that whether we’re talking about 1973 or 2013, just about any young woman who makes the decision to take her clothes off and have sex on camera most likely made that decision because she believed it was her only way of escaping some kind of personal hell.

This is a well-made but grim film about a lost soul and the sadistic creeps who treated her as if she were a sub-human toy. Perfectly capturing the tenor of the times and the grimy underworld of the porn industry, “Lovelace” is the kind of movie you’ll appreciate and respect but never enjoy. Unlike a film such as “Boogie Nights,” there’s almost no lightness, no humor, no colorfully twisted comic relief. It’s just sadness and more sadness, and then a little bit of redemption.

But even then it’s a classic case of too little, too late.

Even with her hair frizzed and her outfits convincingly reflective of the times, Amanda Seyfried doesn’t look much like the late Linda Lovelace — but she does capture the essence of a rebellious and insecure girl who is (unfortunately) ripe for seduction. (Transport Linda to the 21st century and she might well be texting Anthony Weiner.)

Barely out of her teens, living in Florida with her parents and trying to move on from a dark secret from her recent past, Linda is bored to tears. Robert Patrick strikes just the right notes as Linda’s hard-ass but caring father, a retired cop, and an almost unrecognizable Sharon Stone is a standout as Linda’s domineering mother.

It doesn’t take much doing for the oily Chuck Traynor (Peter Sarsgaard, who’s so good at playing these sorts it’s almost stunt casting) to charm Linda into a quickie marriage, despite the obvious warning signs this guy is the definition of bad news.

After Chuck discovers Linda has, shall we say, a very particular set of skills, he parlays that into a meeting with porno filmmakers Gerard Damiano (Hank Azaria, sporting one of the most astonishing wigs in motion picture history) and Butchie Peraino (Bobby Canavale). With financial backing from Chris Noth’s Anthony Romano, “Deep Throat” is a go.

To the astonishment of nearly everyone, including most of the participants, “Deep Throat” becomes a phenomenon, with box-office receipts above and beyond the take of most mainstream movies. (It’s impossible to verify exactly how much “Deep Throat” made, but it’s in the hundreds of millions. On the high end, the claim is the movie made $600 million. What’s beyond dispute is Lovelace was paid $1,250 — and she was offered about twice that to do the sequel, which never materialized. Lovelace’s entire career shooting porn covered less than three weeks.)

As sleazy as the filmmakers are, they’re appalled by Chuck’s treatment of Linda. The intimidating Romano isn’t particularly interested in acting in Linda’s interest, but he does try to separate her from her monster of a husband. Even as Hugh Hefner (a miscast James Franco) circles about Linda, Johnny Carson makes her a staple of his late-night monologue and there’s talk of turning Linda into a mainstream celebrity, the reality of her life is shocking and horrific.

Seyfried is often semi-nude in “Lovelace,” but there’s nothing titillating about this film. Sex is a commodity, and Linda is mere chattel to the men who casually, cruelly abuse her. That she was able to climb from their sewers and bravely tell her story is a minor miracle.

Even then, though, “Lovelace” never feels triumphant or inspirational. It’s a well-made, well-acted reminder that the most famous porn star of the most famous porn movie ever made was a victim from the moment she met Chuck Traynor.

Linda Lovelace was the wrong girl at the wrong moment in the wrong place at the wrong time. Her story is a tragedy.

Email: rroeper@suntimes.com
Twitter: @richardroeper



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