January 27, 2014

That 70s sleazebag

Lovelace (Jeffrey Friedman and Rob Epstein, 2013). There was Deep Throat (1972), a cheap and ugly film that made millions for someone, then there was the moronically celebratory doco Inside Deep Throat (2005) and now a biopic of its doomed star? It’s hard to argue that it is all worth this much attention 40 years on, but at least Lovelace takes a sceptical view. In Howl (2010), documentarians turned feature directors Jeffrey Friedman and Rob Epstein championed the (not) “obscene” Ginsberg poem as an important expression of artistic freedom; the Linda Lovelace story is the grim reverse, in which pornography’s 70s claims for liberation and personal freedom are shown to have been a cover for spousal abuse, exploitation and prostitution. But the real story of Linda Boreman/Lovelace (a meek Amanda Seyfried) and her sleazoid husband Chuck Traynor (wolf-moustached Peter Sarsgaard) was more brutal, ambivalent and much creepier than this straight-forward and sanitised account adapted from Lovelace’s post-trauma memoir, Ordeal. Everyone was on the make, including – even especially – Playboy founder Hugh Hefner, pitifully impersonated by Howl star James Franco. The mood of 70s excess is largely absent and the barely passable historical re-enactments that were just one aspect of Friedman and Epstein’s more complex Howl are now the entire thing.