‘Lovelace’ is like a parody of biopics starring great actors

Hey look! It's James Franco as Hugh Hefner (opposite lead Amanda Seyfried) — one of the many star cameos in "Lovelace." Credit: Magnolia Pictures
Hey look! It’s James Franco as Hugh Hefner (opposite lead Amanda Seyfried) — one of the many star cameos in “Lovelace.”
Credit: RADiUS-TWC

‘Lovelace’
Directors: Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman
Stars: Amanda Seyfried, Peter Sarsgaard
Rating: R
2 (out of 5) Globes

The making of “Deep Throat,” the porn that went unexpectedly mainstream, and the story of its star, Linda Lovelace (née Boreman), is funny — up to a point. In the early ‘70s, a crew of lovable, if money-hungry, horndogs wanted to make an adult film that had enough class and shape to cross over. Their exploits, or at least their sartorial choices, are the stuff of comedy gold. And it would make a fun film — if its star wasn’t allegedly all the while being beaten and forced into sexual slavery by her husband.

The smartest thing the docudrama “Lovelace” does — apart from cast the reliably brilliant Peter Sarsgaard as the abusive spouse, Chuck Traynor — is divide itself in two. The first is a rollicking making-of yukfest. Halfway through, the tone doesn’t just change: The script suddenly back-pedals, revealing the other parts of scenes we’ve already witnessed — showing the demure, submissive Lovelace (Amanda Seyfried) going through a living hell that she, luckily, escaped.

It’s a clever, and only somewhat questionable way to fix both a tonal and structural problem (albeit superficially similar to the one in “A Beautiful Mind”). It can’t, alas, fix everything else that’s wrong with the film, which is otherwise amateurish in every other respect, save acting. Indeed, the twist winds up turning a faux-rollicking ride into a Lifetime Movie of the Week. Directors Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman are documentarians most famous for the gay cinema biggies “The Life and Times of Harvey Milk” and “The Celluloid Closet.” They graduated to “fiction” with “Howl,” an experimental but woebegone presentation of Allen Ginsburg’s most major work. 

Their “Lovelace” plays like a stiff, cheap ripoff of “Boogie Nights.” It hits all the notes but with none of the swagger or rhythm. Its one structural coup aside, the script, by Andy Bellin, is a parody of reductive biopics, which presents Lovelace as a blank who goes from one monster (her mother, played with moderate hamminess by Sharon Stone) for another. It doesn’t question the veracity of Lovelace’s claims, as some have, and when it comes time to slap a judgment on pornography as mere corrosive evil, it does that, too.

“Lovelace” may look like a weak production that just happens to star many, many fine actors — but that’s its slight defense. Seyfried wisely refrains from filling too much into her blank slate character, who remains in a state of slack-jawed trauma, unable to even think of a way out, from beginning to belatedly actualized end. She’s also playing off Sarsgaard, who once again brings unexpected humanity to a monster. Traynor is ultimately a weak creature, whose final moment is a pathetic yowl — a beast neutered as cruelly as he acted towards Lovelace. The parade of famous faces (James Franco as Hugh Hefner!) quickly proves silly, but there are ripe turns from Bobby Cannavale, as a hungry producer, to Debi Mazar, predictably live-wire as Lovelace’s co-star. The film deserves none of them, but has them anyway.



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

MAP: New York City Street Closures August 22,…

The Percy Sutton Harlem 5K and NYC Family Health Walk-a-thon and Pakistan Day Parade and Fair will cause traffic delays and street closures in New York City this weekend. Plan…

International

U.N. nuclear inquiry on Iran seen making slow…

The U.N. nuclear watchdog appears to have made only limited progress so far in getting Iran to answer questions about its suspected atomic bomb research, diplomatic sources said on Friday,…

National

Violence-weary Missouri town sees second night of calm

By Nick Carey and Carey GillamFERGUSON Mo. (Reuters) - The violence-weary town of Ferguson, Missouri, saw a second straight evening of relative calm on Thursday…

National

Journalist James Foley's parents, after call with pope,…

The parents of James Foley, the American journalist killed by Islamic State militants in Iraq, on Friday called for prayer and support to free the remaining captives held by Islamic…

Television

Recap: 'The Knick,' Season 1, Episode 3, 'The…

The third episode of Steven Soderbergh's "The Knick" finds Dr. Thackery (Clive Owen) meeting an old flame and other characters embracing self-destruction.

Music

Webcast: Watch Polyphonic Spree live on Sunday Aug.…

Polyphonic Spree singer Tim DeLaughter sits with Metro Music Editor Pat Healy for a chat and then the big band performs live. It begins on Sunday at 9:30 pm

Movies

Matthew Weiner on directing 'Are You Here' and…

"Mad Men" creator Matthew Weiner discusses his movie "Are You Here," his history writing comedy and the tiny movie he directed in 1996 you can't see.

Movies

Michael Chiklis on his football past and 'When…

Michael Chiklis remembers playing football in high school and how that prepped him to play a coach in "When the Game Stands Tall."

NFL

Fantasy football draft guide: How to draft your…

Many are wondering if we’re entering a new age in fantasy football drafting — one where running backs take a backseat.

NFL

Jets vs. Giants: 3 Giants storylines to watch

The Giants have plenty to work on as they reach the dress rehearsal preseason game Friday night against the rival Jets.

NFL

Jets vs. Giants: 3 Jets storylines to watch

Metro looks at three Jets storylines to watch as they play the Giants Friday.

NFL

Giants expected to work Corey Washington into first-team…

The day of reckoning for the Giants' fringe players will fall upon them Friday night against the Jets.

Sex

Big weddings may lead to long-term happiness

Dreaming of a big wedding? A new study indicates that the longer your guest list, the happier you’ll be in the long run. l A…

Sex

Online dating for every generation

Frank Jackson and his mother Maggie are like lots of modern families: They have dinner together regularly, keep each other updated on their lives —…

Wellbeing

Going green could be the key to getting…

If we could just pursue the things that would actually make us happy, we could help the environment too, according to a New York researcher.…

Tech

Siren: A new dating app that puts women…

Online dating can be brutal, especially for single women. Noting that many women hate wading through inappropriate messages and photos, two tech entrepreneurs decided to…