Linda Lovelace went from being America's biggest adult film star to an outspoken critic of that same industry.  The biopic Lovelace reflects this dichotomy, essentially looking at the title character's life in two halves -- with some factual changes made along the way.

Lovelace begins in 1970 with Linda Lovelace (Amanda Seyfried) as a 20-year-old good girl stuck in a Florida home with an oppressively religious mother (Sharon Stone) and laid-back father (Robert Patrick).  Linda is swept off her feet by Chuck Traylor (Peter Sarsgaard), who's able to charm her parents while introducing Linda to a world of sex and drugs.  In no time at all, they're married.

But it doesn't take long for Chuck to get in financial troubles, and that's when he decides to get Linda into the porn industry to make some money.  He shows a movie with her, er, talent to producers Anthony Romano (Peter Noth) and Butchie Peraino (Bobby Cannavale), along with writer/director Gerry Damaino (Hank Azaria), and they decide to make her the star of their movie.  The resulting skin movie, Deep Throat, becomes a cultural phenomenon and one of the highest-grossing adult films ever, transforming Linda Lovelace becomes a household name.  But there's a dark side to her success...
Again, Lovelace is split almost directly down the middle.  For the first half of the movie, Linda's life seems pretty good: She's a celebrity, meeting people like Hugh Hefner (James Franco), being talked about by Johnny Carson, and giving interviews about her stardom.  But at the middle point, the movie looks at her life again -- this time with Chuck Traynor as a sadistic, selfish, controlling bastard who will rape, beat, or pimp out his wife based on what's convenient for him.  We get to see Linda suffer, struggle, and ultimately grow out of her marriage.

So how does Lovelace work?  It's a mix of positive and negative.  The only two actors with real screen time are Seyfried and Sarsgaard, and they do very well with their roles.  Seyfried captures both the early innocence of Linda (during her audition for the adult film she recites "Mary had a little lamb") and the fear and ultimate maturity from her abuse.  Sarsggard has an easier time of making Chuck into a monster, with a casual expectation that he is to be obeyed or else.  My biggest issue with the movie is its liberties with Linda Lovelace's life.  While the opening describes this as "based on a true story," the story here cherry-picks parts of Lovelace's life for its narrative.  For example, in real life Linda Lovelace became a crusader against the porn industry, yet here she only speaks out against domestic abuse; the contradictions and falsehoods in her public statements are also skipped entirely.

Lovelace isn't so much a movie about one of the most famous porn stars of all time as it is a docudrama about an abusive husband and the wife who overcame him.  Even with a terrific cast, that's a little disappointing given what this could have been.  (The only dvd extra is a big one, as almost every star and both directors talk about the movie.)

Overall grade: C+
Reviewed by James Lynch

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