Deep Over Her Head
Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman’s Lovelace is obscene. Not pornographic, mind, not at all, just obscene in the shallow, pseudo-liberated but at heart manipulative, amoral, money-driven world it portrays.
This ninety-two-minute “based on a true story” film would have it both ways, for, despite names named, disingenuous credits disclaim any intentional resemblance to real persons or events. All but the final minutes deal with that milieu of prurience for profit which is today infinitely even more available online. Those last frames concern married mother Linda Marchiano’s attempt to substantiate her life story related in 1980 best-selling Ordeal, as well as her having wised or grown up and her redemption and long laudable campaign to spare other oppressed women from similar exploitation and humiliation.
This tacked-on caution is not wrong per se. There can be little objection, beyond its soupiness, to the concluding family reunion and reaffirmation of decency, but they are not necessary in light of what goes before. Even if that first hour-and-a-quarter does not offer much realization or rebellion on the one-dimensional heroine’s part, a viewer must be affected, repelled and made indignant.
Linda Lovelace’s (Amanda Seyfried) original surname is slurred and later avoided as too difficult on a polygraph test, while the stage moniker is pronounced almost as love-less. Seventeen days of unprofessional, laughable rather than prurient Miami and New York filming define the rest of her existence, for the “scripted” Deep Throat was the first pornographic theatrical feature, an unlikely smash that may have grossed up to six hundred million 1972 dollars, of which $1,250 supposedly was earmarked for the woman herself. Reflecting the quality of writer-director Gerry Damiano’s (Hank Azaria) skills, LL screens like blown-up 16mm. Along with but more than Georgina Spelvin and Marilyn Chambers, twenty-year-old Lovelace theoretically birthed an era of sexual and social freedom. (Damiano also did Spelvin’s 1973 The Devil in Miss Jones, and, irony stranger than fiction, Behind the Green Door Ivory Snow girl Chambers would later marry Chuck Traynor, Lovelace’s Svengali first husband.)
A lightly freckled woman-child in Davie, Florida, Bronx-born Linda Boreman shares teen fantasies with pal Patsy (Juno Temple) and chafes but bites her tongue under the life-stifling religiosity of mother Dorothy -- another late, brief backstory -- and airport security guard father John (Sharon Stone, unrecognizable and herself formerly most celebrated for celluloid sex; and Robert Patrick).
Picked up at a local roller rink by Traynor (Peter Sarsgaard), she (and soon even her folks) is charmed, or conned, by the sweet-talking petty hustler. Equal parts in love and in flight from the repressive home to which she will yearn to return, she marries him and gets introduced into a milieu of sex and drugs. Naïve about life, sex and men, she is beaten, threatened and pimped by an increasingly despicable husband, who forces her onto the attention of sleazy porn filmmakers. Her slender girl-next-door looks are not the stuff of blue movies, but her natural mesmerizing ability for oral sex is the thunderbolt that leads to Deep Throat, the term today more recognized if at all for political than sexual scandal.
Linda clings to the physically and emotionally abusive husband even as his delusions of grandeur land him, and her, way in over their heads in the quasi-legal but certainly lethal and unsavory business on the fringes of entertainment. Wined, dined and courted by the rich and famous, Linda finds herself isolated and dependent on egotistical, unreliable and dangerous Traynor.
Most of the characters are types, and there is scant insight into clueless Linda. But the picture is significant for its portrayal of a battered, exploited woman and of the macho social attitudes which foster such situations, as for instance when two policemen gawk, request an autograph and fraternally advise Traynor to take his bruised wife home.
(Released by Radius-TWC and rated “R” by MPAA.)