"“A harrowing portrayal of a young woman struggling in an abusive relationship...”"
The 'Golden Age of Porn', taking place in America across the 1970s, has been so well documented in film by Paul Thomas Anderson in his stunning drama Boogie Nights, that you can't help but feel no-one else needn't bother. However, that particular offering was focusing on a male performers rise to prominence within the industry, whereas in Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman's Lovelace, we explore such a rise from a female perspective, tapping in to the vulnerability and danger such a lifestyle can spawn, in this harrowing biopic of the infamous porn actress Linda Lovelace.
Growing up in humble surroundings, and to restrictive suburban parents, Linda (Amanda Seyfried) and her free spirited best friend Patsy (Juno Temple) meet Chuck Traynor (Peter Sarsgaard), a sleazy and narcissistic man of whom the former ends up marrying. As the pair struggle to make ends meet financially, Chuck introduces his wife into the porn industry, a world unbeknown to her. Timid and reluctant at first, Linda soon becomes one of the most famous porn actresses in the world, with the subsequent success of her debut feature Deep Throat. However despite the glitz and the glamour, beneath the surface lies an extremely unhappy woman, caught up in a destructive and violent marriage.
Though Lovelace is a dark and intense picture, it doesn't quite portray the seediness of the porn industry, as we don't fully get a sense for how volatile such a business can be. Instead, much of the intensity within this title comes from Linda's marriage, in what is more of a study of domestic violence, than this is a exploration of her rise to fame. It's a hauntingly pragmatic and hard-hitting production, capturing the way someone can get so helplessly and unintentionally caught up in such a sordid and aggressive affair. To compliment this narrative, we have two stunning lead performances – particularly Sarsgaard, who has a genuine, threatening nature about him and manipulation that is believable. He can be nice when he wants to be, as we fully comprehend how Linda fell into this relationship in the first place.
However the structure of this title is somewhat perplexing at times, as you feel that this story hasn't been told is the most effective way, as we weave needlessly in and out of different time periods, where only a slightly altered hairstyle informs us of what era we're depicting. That said, it is intriguing how we witness everything as being rosy and optimistic, before we return to the same scenarios from an alternative angle later on – this time to see the darkness that exists. This technique is intelligent, as the viewer is made to feel like all of the supporting roles in the film, as we perceive the marriage between Chuck and Linda as being amicable and endearing, only to take a closer look later on and see how wrong we all were.
With a great, pumping 70's soundtrack – and an array of impressive haircuts – Lovelace feels entirely faithful to the era of which it's set. Though be warned, this setting remains a mere backdrop to a harrowing portrayal of a young woman struggling in an abusive relationship. It's not all platform boots and Bee Gees, I assure you.