Director: Rob Epstein, Jeffrey Friedman
Writer: Andy Bellin
Based on: Linda Lovelace‘s autobiographies
Cast: Amanda Seyfried, Peter Sarsgaard, Sharon Stone, Robert Patrick, Juno Temple, Chris Noth, Bobby Cannavale, Hank Azaria, Adam Brody, Chloë Sevigny, James Franco, Debi Mazar, Wes Bentley, Eric Roberts,
Seen on: 20.4.2020
Content Note: abuse, domestic violence, rape
Linda (Amanda Seyfried) lives with her parents (Sharon Stone, Robert Patrick) who are very strict. But that doesn’t mean that she can’t go partying with her friend Patsy (Juno Temple). At one of those parties, Linda meets the charming Chuck (Peter Sarsgaard). When her parents try to curb the relationship, Linda just moves in with Chuck. They get married, they appear happy, but Chuck is abusive. As he struggles with money, he pushes Linda to make porn. Her film, Deep Throat, is a huge success and bit by bit, Linda manages to get away from Chuck.
Lovelace tells a heavy story, and they manage not to fall (too much) into anti-porn rhetoric, despite the topic, but at its core it’s a film that never manages to see Linda as anything else but a victim.
Lovelace’s story is basically the epitome of everything the anti-porn movement (supposedly) fights against and Lovelace herself became part of the movement later in life. She is a “good girl” who is abused and coerced to shoot porn, and for the anti-porn movement, this is the only kind of woman who would ever do porn, ergo porn itself is a bad thing. Instead of fighting against abuse directly, it goes the “no woman can be forced into porn if there is no porn” route. And I’m not here to say that Lovelace actually wanted to do porn and that her abuse and rape wasn’t real. I’m also sure she isn’t the only woman who was forced to play in porn (or filmed without her consent in the first place). All I’m saying is that the anti-porn logic is faulty and I’m glad that the film, while mentioning Lovelace’s turn later in life and while definitely showing how sleazy the (people in the) porn industry can be, doesn’t lean too much on that angle.
But it does lean very heavily on Lovelace as a victim. A victim of her strict upbringing, then a victim of Chuck, and finally a victim of the public’s interest in her. The big emotional closure for her is not the publication of her autobiography where she lays out the facts as she experienced them, but it’s getting hugged by her parents again who have finally forgiven her. It feels made to make her look small and fragile – and I think that’s what made me wish that there had been women behind the camera. Not that that’s any guarantee for a better treatment, but maybe there’s a better chance.
That being said, I thought it was a very clever twist in the script that the film first shows the success story – the rise of Linda to stardom, the good parts of her relationship with Chuck – and then goes back in the middle of the film to show all the abuse, the rapes, the sale of Linda for Chuck’s benefit that happened behind that success. It’s also harrowing to see how many men in the film see the signs that something isn’t right here, and yet do nothing to help Linda. Quite to the contrary, they are happy to participate or turn a blind eye, if it benefits them as well. (Until she finally sports a bruise in the face and the moment comes where a man can save her by beating up Chuck.)
It is that structure in combination with the absolutely fantastic cast that still make the film interesting. Plus, it seems to have a real love for the original Deep Throat film and the bits and pieces we get to see (remade) here, did make me want to see it (whether I actually will remains to be seen – it’s also an ethical question, knowing that Lovelace was forced to participate). But I’m definitely not entirely happy with it.
Summarizing: Proceed with caution.