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Lovelace Blu-ray Review

Lovelace (2013) movie poster Lovelace

Theatrical Release: August 9, 2013 / Running Time: 93 Minutes / Rating: R

Directors: Rob Epstein, Jeffrey Friedman / Writer: Andy Bellin

Cast: Amanda Seyfried (Linda Boreman/Lovelace/Marchiano), Peter Sarsgaard (Chuck Traynor), Sharon Stone (Dorothy Boreman), Robert Patrick (John Boreman), Juno Temple (Patsy), Chris Noth (Anthony Romano), Bobby Cannavale (Butchie Peraino), Hank Azaria (Gerry Damiano), Adam Brody (Harry Reems), Chlo๋ Sevigny (Feminist Journalist), James Franco (Hugh Hefner), Debi Mazar (Dolly), Wes Bentley (Thomas - Photographer), Eric Roberts (Nat Laurendi), Ronald Pritchard (Sammy Davis Jr.), LisaGay Hamilton (Marsha), Sandy Martin (Ticket Lady), Dave Gueriera (Larry Marchiano)

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A Linda Lovelace biopic got a lot of press a few years back when it was poised to become a comeback vehicle for Lindsay Lohan. The troubled former child star would play the similarly-named star of the mainstream-penetrating 1972 pornographic film Deep Throat from which Woodward and Bernstein's top-secret, case-breaking Watergate informant took his alias. Lohan's much-publicized legal troubles forced her to bow out and be replaced by Malin Akerman, but that project, titled Inferno: A Linda Lovelace Story, still has yet to start filming and may never do so. Meanwhile, Lohan's Mean Girls co-star Amanda Seyfried actually made Lovelace.
Though far more accomplished in recent years, having appeared in hits like Mamma Mia! and last year's Les Mis้rables, Seyfried doesn't carry the celebrity train wreck status and baggage that keeps Lohan in the news through her professional doldrums. Thus, Lovelace was able to arrive under the radar and disappear from limited theatrical release with minimal fanfare.

Directed by award-winning documentarians Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman (The Celluloid Closet), this biopic tells the story of Lovelace's unexpected fame from and subsequent crusade against pornography.

The film opens in 1971. The 21-year-old Linda and her parents have recently moved from their native New York to Florida. Linda's mother (Sharon Stone) treats her very much like a child, enforcing curfews and objecting to her behavior, which Linda's best friend (Juno Temple) considers prudish. The two girls volunteer as go-go dancers to liven up performing bands on stage at the roller rink. It is this job which wins Linda the attention of Chuck Traynor (Peter Sarsgaard), a bar owner who turns up the charm for a dinner with her folks.

The 2013 biopic "Lovelace" casts Amanda Seyfried as iconic adult film actress Linda Lovelace.

Soon, Linda is moving in with and marrying Chuck, who insists she never ask him about his work, not even when she has to bail him out of jail. Linda becomes more familiar with his work when he has her audition for his colleagues (Bobby Cannavale and Hank Azaria), who are putting together the most ambitious of adult films, with an actual script, a 35mm camera, and lighting. They are reluctant to hire the freckled brunette because she doesn't fit the desired blonde, busty mold, but when Chuck proudly shows them a home movie revealing what his young wife is capable of, they're convinced they've got a star.

Oddly, we skip over the part where Chuck has to convince Linda to enter the world of pornography. For about its first half, Lovelace feels like a behind-the-scenes celebration of a landmark adult film, possibly akin to the Brian Grazer-produced 2005 documentary Inside Deep Throat. It takes a comic tone as these sleazy producers and even Linda's seasoned co-star (Adam Brody) are all blown away by what Linda can do, an act that obviously has to be completely obscured to secure an R rating.

The movie is an unprecedented success and Linda is famous enough for her and her newly-christened surname to make it into Johnny Carson jokes. A young Hugh Hefner (James Franco, basically as a clean-shaven version of himself) hosts a lavish private screening of the film, which even draws the likes of Sammy Davis Jr.

Peter Sarsgaard turns up the sleaze as Chuck Traynor, Lovelace's hands-on manager and abusive husband. As if you can't already tell, Linda's mother (Sharon Stone) does not approve of her life choices.

Epstein and Friedman then jump ahead six years to find Lovelace submitting to a polygraph test. The long-retired actress is about to publish her story. Her reflections return us to the height of her fame and cast them in a new light, as we discover the full extent of her creepy husband,
a cocaine-fueled exploiter who prostitutes Linda, controls her finances, and subjects her to spousal abuse, threats, and a paid arranged gang rape. Chuck, whom Deep Throat's makers have kept at a distance during the shoot, accumulates debt as he tries to cash-in on his wife with a salacious autobiography, blow-up dolls, and other merchandise.

This abrupt change takes the film to dark and sobering places and that seems to reflect Lovelace's own journey, from na๏ve young accidental celebrity to yesterday's news to a bombshell-dropping author. It's a sordid career arc and one which the film tries to make sense of, sharing some of Chuck's blame with Linda's parents and the entire adult film industry. Closing text screens reveal that Deep Throat has generated $600 million of revenue (a bold claim that has been deservedly disputed), while Lovelace was paid just $1,250.

A read of Lovelace's Wikipedia entry suggests that sophomore screenwriter Andy Bellin (the 2010 thriller Trust) has tidied up the actress/activist's story to reflect the one her estate wishes to tell. The film includes that it was "Inspired by the life story of Linda Marchiano" in its credits and billing block. There seems little doubt that Lovelace is an unfortunate victim of a skeevy industry and a degenerate husband. Dramatizing this rise and fall, though, is certainly not inspirational, something it seems to want to be near its end. Nor is Lovelace particularly poignant or stirring. You sympathize with her and believe her parents' pain (Robert Patrick is most effective in his limited, emotional screentime as Lovelace's father), but it's not a rewarding trip.

The acting is good. Seyfried is comfortable in bringing her natural guilelessness to more lurid places. By this point, no one can dispute that Sarsgaard makes for a convincing creep (watch your back, Michael Shannon!). Fitted with period clothes and hairstyles, supporting players evoke the era and our little understanding of the world being dramatized. Epstein and Friedman's background helps them provide a gritty authenticity even when certain events they depict must be imagined or open to dispute. The directors hang on to their indie cred despite a second half that pushes the film into cautionary Lifetime Original Movie territory.

Regardless of the technical polish and committed performances, though, Lovelace is not an easy film to like or recommend. It's a depressing look at the reality behind the lucrative manufacturing of adult fantasy.

Watch a clip from Lovelace:

Lovelace Blu-ray Disc cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray Disc Details

1.85:1 Widescreen
5.1 DTS-HD MA (English)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, Spanish
Not Closed Captioned; Extra Subtitled in English
Release Date: November 5, 2013
Suggested Retail Price: $34.99
Single-sided, single-layered disc (BD-25)
Blue Keepcase
Also available on DVD ($24.98 SRP) and on Instant Video

VIDEO and AUDIO

On Blu-ray, Lovelace exhibits more grain than the vast majority of modern films, but that is evidently by design. Epstein and Friedman made extensive use of a 16mm camera to evoke the era dramatized. The 1.85:1 transfer is otherwise clean, as it exhibits a very 1970s color palette. The 5.1 DTS-HD master audio doesn't lend itself to such observation. The film includes a few period tunes, though fewer than most dramas set in the '70s, and they and dialogue remain even and crisp throughout.

Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman direct Amanda Seyfried and Juno Temple in tandem in "Behind 'Lovelace.'" Next to a small "Deep Throat" poster, a blonde, freckle-less Amanda Seyfried discusses playing Linda Lovelace, her first real character.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

The Blu-ray's only bonus feature is "Behind Lovelace" (13:57), a good HD making-of featurette. It includes comments from the cast, co-directors, and select crew members, as they discuss Lovelace, working with two directors, the use of 16mm cameras,
and the visual effects needed to put Seyfried into real Phil Donahue talk show footage. The talking heads are complemented by behind-the-scenes footage.

The lack of deleted scenes is bad news for Sarah Jessica Parker fans, who evidently won't get to see her play feminist activist Gloria Steinem, a role she assumed from a bowed-out Demi Moore a week before filming that clearly wound up on the cutting room floor.

The disc opens with trailers for the documentaries 20 Feet from Stardom and Cutie and the Boxer, neither of which is accessible from the menu.

That menu places listings beneath the routine montage of grainy clips that occupy the rest of the screen. Disappointingly typical for a Weinstein Blu-ray, the disc neither allows bookmarking nor is able to resume unfinished playback.

The plain blue keepcase doesn't hold any inserts or feature reverse cover artwork.

A young Hugh Hefner (James Franco) invites Linda Lovelace (Amanda Seyfried) to sit beside him during the private "Deep Throat" screening he hosts. A slightly older and less glamorous Linda Marchiano (Amanda Seyfried) speaks out on "Donahue" against the violence she experienced.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Lovelace is a relatively well-made and well-intentioned film, but it is enough of a downer to question giving it your time. The basic Blu-ray treats the film to the grainy look intended and meets supplemental needs with a featurette (though the absence of documented deleted scenes is too bad). Parties interested in a dark period porn biopic might find this a worthwhile rental.

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Related Reviews:
Amanda Seyfried: Chloe • Red Riding Hood • In Time • Dear John • Jennifer's Body • Epic
Peter Sarsgaard: An Education • Orphan • Flightplan • Knight and Day • Robot & Frank
James Franco: The Iceman • 127 Hours | Juno Temple: Magic Magic | Bobby Cannavale: Win Win
Sharon Stone: Border Run • $5 a Day | Robert Patrick: Gangster Squad • Mafia
Behind the Candelabra • Middle Men • My Week with Marilyn • Kill the Irishman
New: Only God Forgives • Embrace of the Vampire (1995) • Embrace of the Vampire (2013) • Plush

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Reviewed October 31, 2013.



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